Pork Rib Ragout? Don’t mind if I do! Only at Joanne

I’ve been in Brooklyn for about 4 days now, so it’s safe to say I’ve had my share of artisan espresso drinks, “chill vibes” and hey, I’ve even bought a beanie and a scarf…partly because it’s cold here, and partly because I’m surrounded by hipsters.

A good friend of mine, Travis Jones, came to the city two years ago, with an internship at Joanne Trattoria in Manhattan. If you’re familiar with this name, you know it is the restaurant owned by Lady Gaga’s father, Joe.

Being an avid follower of Travis on Facebook, I closely watched his journey from front of the house intern to executive chef and general manager.

Travis is from Missouri. Yes, Missouri.
Growing up, Travis’ sole idea of Italian was Pizza Hut. You wouldn’t guess that now, because he’s fathered some amazing dishes like pork rib ragout and some fantastic lasagna.

Joanne was on the top of my list of places to eat, mostly because I knew Travis would be welcoming and hospitable.

Connected with Chef Art Smith, Travis landed the internship as front of the house manager. While excelling in that role, necessity steered him into the kitchen.

After devastating hurricane Sandy, the staff of the trattoria was stripped to bare bones, including Joe, Cynthia (Joe’s wife), Natali (Joe’s daughter) and Travis.
This is a true story of champions. Joe quickly discovered that Travis could hold his own in the kitchen, and from then on, Travis has reined supreme in the quaint, open kitchen of Joanne.

I embarked for my first subway trip since moving, a daunting idea, that was as anti climactic as that Mariah Carey movie (the one that’s not Precious.)

I quickly found my way to Joanne, and was greeted by dazzling signage that set the tone for the meal.

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I sent Travis a quick text alerting him that I had arrived, and headed in.
Imagine the coziest little Italian restaurant you could imagine. Classy decor, rustic impression and warmth…that’s Joanne.

I was met with a smile, a hug and a comfortable little table in the dining room.
After a quick tour of the restaurant, including the walk in and small stackable ovens that produce the baked goods, I sat down with Travis and he recommended some martinis. I told him I was nervous about commuting home, so he recommended and quickly presented the blueberry casino, a sweet martini with hints of blueberry and citrus.

A quiet staff member quickly offered water, and poured some.
Travis insisted I try a winter salad they feature, with beets, arugula, red quinoa and a mustard vinaigrette.

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A delicious salad indeed. The inspiration for this dish came from Natali, who has been on a health kick as of lately.
I mentioned that most beet salads feature some sort of cheese, typically goat but that can vary.
Travis explained that in previous services, dishes were finished with fine Parmesan automatically. After having them sent back by people unaware of the cheese, he decided to omit the cheese and save the kitchen staff some extra steps.

The salad had the earthy element of beets, the peppery arugula, hearty quinoa and the spice of the vinaigrette all made for a well composed dish.

Next was the entree. One of Travis’ favorites (and soon to be mine), the pork rib ragout hit my table promptly, and perfumed the air with scents of rosemary and tomato.

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I opted for fresh pappardelle pasta, which I learned had been made by the current bartender, who offers to lend a hand in the kitchen during day time hours.
The ragout was simply satisfying. I’m not the least bit Italian, but this dish made me feel like a guido (and I mean that in the least offensive way possible.)

The chit chat at the table ranged from Travis’ influences, to his freedom in the kitchen, to his personal life…or lack there of.

I learned that Travis enjoyed the occasional White Castle binge, and finds himself disappointed at other restaurants, therefore prefers to cook for himself.

Menu items at Joanne are often brain children that Travis makes come to life, just like a kitchen Doctor Frankenstein.
When Travis craves a jelly roll, he makes a jelly roll.
When Travis makes a jelly roll, he doesn’t stop there.

New as a special, the tiramisu roll was suddenly acquainted with my palette. Tiramisu is my favorite dessert, and this version delivered.
Paired with an espresso, the meal capped off perfectly.

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It just happened that the day I visited Joanne, was Travis’ 2 year anniversary with the restaurant, and that was apparent by the flowers and praise by owners and customers alike.

A meal at Joanne will satiate all the senses, and you will not walk away having anything left to be desired.

If you’re in Manhattan, around 68th street, pay a visit to Joanne and be sure to say hi to Travis Jones, a staple at this authentic Italian hot spot.

I’m being forced to move to New York City

Now that I’ve got you to open this blog, I would like to note that it was a conscious, 100% personal decision to move to New York City.

I’m forcing myself to. And here’s why:

Anyone who knows me well knows that I cannot let myself settle, for anything. I left my house when I was 16 to go to college to chase my dream of becoming a chef. I could have stayed and enjoyed my senior year of high school…but that would have been settling for something I didn’t truly want.

I worked my way through college, both in Residential Life and at restaurants part time. I took extra classes, and summer courses. Why not just enjoy college one day at a time? Because I can only see big pictures. I can only see the finish line, the end goal…not small victories or triumphs in between.

I graduated. Got a job and learned even more. Then, I switched jobs and continued learning. Why did I switch? I wanted more for myself…more of a challenge and more of my skills to be utilized.

As my lease started winding down, I had a choice to make. Do I keep my great job with great people? Or do I start over somewhere else. I appreciate my former employers, but guess what, settling doesn’t cut it for me.

As I count my last days in Massachusetts I can’t help but think “what am I getting myself into?” And “is this really the right choice?”

At this point, you’ll probably think that I will “settle” in New York City, thus negating everything I was just blabbing about…but guess what, that’s where you’re wrong.

When I fantasized about being a chef and looked at that aforementioned “big picture”, I didn’t see myself in Worcester, Massachusetts. I didn’t even see myself in Boston.

New York City is the pinnacle of a chefs career. It is the only place that will force you to learn, and if you ignore the lessons, it will swallow you whole.

A NYC chef is of a different breed and marches to a different drummer.

It’s a bold statement to say a NYC chef can get a job anywhere else in the world, but I would like to believe that.

There is something inside of me, something tenacious that often clouds my common sense, something that pushes me outside of my comfort zone. This something, almost a monster inside of me, tells me not to be comfortable in a cushy house with a good job. This monster wants me to struggle, and build character while fighting for survival.

I’ve always been a fighter, and I’m ready to get in the ring.

From a young chef, to a younger chef

You’re young, and you’re excited.

Seduced by Chopped, wooed by Bobby Flay, and intrigued by that episode of Top Chef you landed on by mistake, you decide you want to make professional cooking your career.

Right there- you’re wrong already. It’s not just going to be your career… It’s going to be your life.

You cruise through culinary school, impress some instructors here and there and are bound to graduate.
You keep your knives sharp, and your work spaces clean… But there’s one thing that you don’t know yet, and your teachers can’t explain…

your life from here on out, will be treacherous

You’ve seen Restaurant Impossible, Hell’s Kitchen and one time, you heard your aunt talk about Anthony Bourdain. So you think… “It can’t be that bad.

You’re wrong again.

I have to tell you a few things, and if you’re weak spirited, then forgive my brutal honesty.

- your chicken Parmesan isn’t that good.
You put your own spin on your moms recipe…but guess what, the guy down the street does it much better. You’ve got to constantly change and adapt to the industry. Make it better, make it prettier.

- your social life will diminish.
Unless your best friends works every shift with you, you won’t get to see them too often. You’ll work nights, weekends and holidays. Your moms birthday? You’ll be at work. Christmas Eve? You’ll probably be at work. It’s a lonely industry, and only the fittest survive.

- you will not become famous.
If you’re not a child prodigy, or have some sort of ridiculous gimmick, you will not become famous. But if that’s your goal- you’re in it for the wrong reasons…dismiss yourself before someone does it for you.

- you won’t become rich.
If you work for a large, corporate chain… You’re hardly a chef. Anyone proficient in reading, chopping and nodding their head can work for corporate restaurants. Take off your bedazzled chef coat and Chili’s name tag. If you truly love the craft of cooking, you’ll happily work for very little, and take knowledge and constant lessons as a form of payment.

- you will clean up after yourself.
Maybe you have a dishwasher, and a cleaning crew…maybe not. You’d better come accustomed to cleaning your own tools, keeping your station very tidy and managing every stain, hole and burn mark your chef coat endures. The sloppier you are, the easier it is to find someone who takes pride and integrity in their work.

- you may become depressed.
Your schedule is hectic, and you’re worked to the bone. You’ll cry, yell and feel completely void of emotion- and it might be all in the same day. I repeat, only the fittest survive. Mental health is crucial. Find something that keeps you focused and relaxed… And sleep as much as possible.

- you still have to learn
You could attend every culinary school in the world, but when you work in a kitchen, you still have to keep an open mind and always find the lesson in everything. If you burn something, there’s a lesson. If you make something absolutely perfect…there’s a lesson there too. Stay humble, take notes and search for the lesson.

- you’re an artist…act like it.
Textures, colors and flavors all work harmoniously. If you can’t make a dish beautiful, you’re worthless to me. People eat with their eyes first. Make it colorful, make it precise and make it delicious. When you aren’t at work, think as if you were in the kitchen. “That white shirt looks awesome with green pants and a red bow tie.” Can easily translate into “seared bass with sweet pea pur√©e and cherry tomatoes.”

Am I making sense here? Forgive me for rambling, it’s my (half of a) day off, and I’ve had a drink or so…but so will you. Cause you’ll need it.

If cooking is your passion, you will happily sacrifice most of your sanity to be a great chef. It isn’t for the weak, and for the third time- only the fittest survive.

In short: stay sharp, find yourself as a chef, keep learning and constantly challenge yourself.

You’ll be surprised how far you can bend without breaking.

That’s all folks, stay hungry.

Please leave feedback about this post. ūüėä

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Pierogies, homies!

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and this one is brought to you via my high tech smartphone, so bare with my spelling errors and brevity.

I tried to ask Siri to write a blog for me, and all she had to say was something like “No, lazy ass.”

Regardless of Siri’s defiance, I write on.
This blog is geared to self discovery, and of course I’m delivering that to you through food talk.

Recently, I’ve been learning about myself as a chef: what my palate is like, where my skill set lies and what I like to do.
I’m being challenged at work, and I couldn’t be happier.

A while back, my executive chef (or boss, for my non restaurant peeps) was explaining how she does a lot of volunteer work for the Worcester’s Best Chef competition, a fun event that brings local chefs together for a scholarship charity for Worcester’s vocational students.
She explained that no one from our restaurant has stepped up to the plate to compete, and as a judge, she can’t compete herself.

A lightbulb went off. I love to cook, and I love competition.

I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE

in a less dramatic interjection, I told her I would like to represent the restaurant in the competition.

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The topic was tabled for a bit while we prepared to move into a beautiful, custom new restaurant space.
As we settle into our massive, bright, perfect kitchen, I keep pushing myself to work faster, work harder and constantly “turn the screw” to keep myself sharp and out of my comfort level.
One day, random chatter turned into a conversation about pierogies, and how all the Polish women in my family get together once a year and make pierogies in massive quantities with an authentic recipe.
“Why don’t you make pierogies for Worcester’s Best Chef (WBC) ?” My boss asked.

**a pierogi is a traditional Polish dumpling typically filled with cabbage, cheese or a berry filling**

At first, this did not appeal to me. I hadn’t eaten a pierogi in years, and having grown up eating them, it wasn’t appealing to me. Then something changed, I remembered how comforting they were, how they reminded me of home and the loving women in my family.

She was on to something.
That night, I reached out to my Cioci Doreen.
(Cioci is “aunt” in Polish)
I needed her recipe! If I was going to make this for well established judges, I needed a recipe that was tried and true.
In the recipe, she references temperature of milk and butter by touch.
by touch

How was I supposed to know how warm it was supposed to feel?
Nonetheless, I adjusted the recipe to my needs, cause the original yields almost 200 pierogies.
A private party at my restaurant with “Chef’s Choice appetizers” was the perfect opportunity to try it out. Luckily my boss was all for the idea, actually it was her suggestion!

I made my filling out of sausage and diced potatoes, and of course cabbage! I seasoned it appropriately and something struck me right then and there!
this smell, this combination reminded me of home, and comfort and my childhood

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I was on a roll.
Now time for the dough, the most daunting task of all.

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There was a certain feel to the milk. Not too hot, but a little warmer than room temperature.
When I felt it was time, I started building my dough, skeptical the whole way through.
Okay, the dough looked right, so I began rolling it out. It stretched in the right way, felt right.
I punched out my circles which would then turn into my pierogies.
Filled them with the amazing filling as wofting aromas of cabbage, and a small hint of fennel reassured me.

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Then, as I crimped the edges of the first one a huge wave of relief came over me.
They looked right! They looked authentic.

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I hand stuffed about 80 pierogies by myself, gaining confidence with each one.

I had never done this, I was going off a home cooks recipe, and hoping it worked out.
We cooked them up, and finished them in a warm garlic butter and topped with fresh scallion.

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The taste amazed me. It was like taking a small trip to the years I was a child.
The pierogies were a hit with staff and an esteemed chef guest at the party.
My confidence grew. For a moment in time I knew my place as a chef, I knew my palate and I was happy to share that with a room full of people.
I don’t need to cook a crown roast of lamb to impress people. I need to do what I know, do it well and take risks when I deem it appropriate.

Enough about me, let me turn this into you readers. Find a recipe that touches home for you, call your grandmothers, aunts, fathers and get the recipes they cooked for you. Make it your own, but remember where it came from. You’ll impress yourself just like I did!

That’s all for now, thanks for reading & stay hungry!

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Bravo, Avocado!

Hi readers! I’m sure you’ve missed me just as much (if not more) than I missed seeing Tamra’s OC Wedding on the Bravo Channel.

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Never fear. I’m back, and hopefully better than ever.

After a desperate plea on my social media outlets, I’ve come up with the topic for my next post.¬†

Ah-vo-cah-dough.

(If you offered different suggestions via Facebook, don’t worry- I’ll get to those too)

An avocado is a beautiful, versatile, nutritious fruit. Yes, it is in fact a fruit.

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This beautiful food product originated in Puebla, Mexico and looked a lot uglier than the above image. 

After centuries of avocados being considered an exotic delicacy, only to grace expensive hotels and restaurants and very rarely the dining room table of the upper 10% of the population, the Americans tried to domesticate ya. (That’s a blatant Robin Thicke reference)

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In America, the avocado can only grow in climates with no frost and little winds. Mainly California, Florida, Arizona, etc.

That’s all I have for a boring history lesson.¬†

Why should you eat avocados? It’s simple really. It has a butt load of healthy fats (which help in nutrient and vitamin absorption) and it also has proven benefits for cardiovascular disease, weight management and diabetes!

Avocados also have close to 20 nutrients including: fiber, more potassium than found in bananas, vitamin e, B vitamins and folic acid.

Avocados used to be used on the high seas to prevent scurvy, and were a popular meat substitute for a long time. 

If you don’t fancy the texture of fresh avocado, opt for avocado oil and get the same benefits!

Some people say an avocado a day keeps the weight away!

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Let’s get to the knitty gritty.

So you go to your local Piggly Wiggly or Price Chopper and you reluctantly approach the avocados.

You want a fruit with a dark green/brownish peel to it and when you pick it up, you want it to have a LITTLE give. That means you should not put your fat thumb right through it, but it also shouldn’t be hard as a rock either.

Now that you’ve picked out the perfect avocado- pay for it and bring it home.

Once home, you frantically look around your kitchen to find a tool to get into this beauty.

Eureka! A Chef’s knife! (Something 6+ Inches works best ) <- that’s what SHE said . Boom.

Hold the avocado in your palm, with the top resting between your index finger and thumb, The bottom should be towards the bottom of your palm.

Using your knife, start at the top of the fruit and penetrate the peel. (nottt a good enough reason to use the word “penetrate”)

You’ll find a large pit in the middle of the fruit. Don’t panic.

Simply rotate the fruit length wise around your knife (let the fruit do the work, not the knife or else you’ll cut yourself)

Once you’ve bisected the fruit the long way, you can use your hands to rotate the fruit and separate each half. ¬†

Ruh Roh. The pit is stuck in one of the halves. 

Employ the use of your knife once more, and firmly and confidently hack into the pit. Watch your hands, but be firm. Show that pit who is boss.

Once you’ve got a good handle into the pit, turn the handle of the knife which will loosen the pit from the center of the fruit. Discard the pit (unless you live somewhere with no frost and little wind – in which case- plant it!)

Watch this video if nothing makes sense.

Now you have some options.

Are you using it for guacamole or some other dip? If so, use your knife  to carefully dice the fruit while its still in the peel, paying careful attention to not puncture the peel or your hand. Then simply use a spoon to remove your diced avocado from the peel.

Are you using it for a sandwich or to top a stew/chili? If you answered yes, then slice the avocado while in the peel lengthwise into 3 or 4 long slices. Then using a spoon, remove your sliced avocado and enjoy.

Are you using it to stuff with something delicious? Then don’t pick up your knife again. Use a spoon, and remove the avocado half from the peel. Voila!¬†

Are you still with me? Am I starting to sound like a Bobby Flay protege?

Now you’ve got the holy grail of fruit at your disposal. Let’s talk recipes!

Your basic guacamole will include avocado, red onion, cilantro, tomatoes, and lime juice and salt and pepper. In whatever proportions you like, For instance, I HATE raw tomatoes, so I would probably not put those in. I would add corn to spice it up.

Now for some cool stuff:

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Avocado Fries

Oil For Frying
2 avocado
1 egg, beaten
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 tsp salt

1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the bread crumbs and salt. Set it aside. Cut the avocados in half, remove the pit and then slice them vertically into 1 inch wedges Scoop the wedges out carefully with a spoon against the edge of the skin. Set them aside.

2. Dredge the avocado in the beaten egg, then in the breadcrumb mixture.

3. In a large frying pan heat the vegetable oil until it shimmers. Carefully place them in the hot oil and fry them for about 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown, turning them once. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place them on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil. ALTERNATIVELY:Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Place the breaded avocado slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes or until the bread crumbs have turned golden.

(recipe courtesy of treehugger.com)

 

Marcus Samuelsson (My favorite celebrity chef of ALL TIME) likes to use avocado in a smoothie! Recipe below! 

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1 avocado

1/2 cup fresh OJ

2 bananas

1/4 cup plain yogurt

2 tsp sugar

1 tblsp fresh grated ginger

juice of 1 lime

pinch of salt

Combine first 5 ingredients in a blender until smooth, then add the ginger, lime juice and salt. There ya go.

(Recipe from Marcus Samuelsson’s “New American Table”)

 

Once you develop a taste for avocado, there is no limits to what you can do with it. Use it for texture, color and taste and you’ll be a kitchen rockstar- just like me. ;)

 

That’s all folks! Please leave comments with your thoughts on this post and anything else you’d like to see!

Stay beautiful.

Head in the clouds, eyes on the prize and feet on the ground.

If you’ve never lost your mind, then you’ve never followed your heart.

 

America. The land of the free, home of the Whopper. Aside from all of the less than ideal monikers we’ve created for ourselves, America is certainly the land of opportunity.¬†

It hides behind every corner, but some of us just don’t see it.

We are quick to post facebook statuses, send tweets, and make those weird, inspirational instagram pictures about following our dreams, listening to our hearts and not caring about what people think, but how many of us live by those social media pollutants?

I sure as hell do. 

When I observe people around me, I notice a common theme…settling within your comfort zone.

There is a difference between “settling down” and “settling”.¬†

When you settle down, you start to think about a family, and secure a decent job. When you settle, you forget your dreams and aspirations and you allow yourself to make do with what you have, with no intention of striving for more.

For some people, it happens instantly. You may get pregnant, and have the obligation to provide a steady household for your family. There is nothing wrong with this, but it is different than settling. 

For others, the pain and struggle of everyday life slowly chips away at you until you have nothing left, and no self esteem and thus, settling.

Pause. If you’re already bored and thinking to yourself “here goes ole jabber blog, getting on his soap box and preaching to the choir” – kindly get the fuck off my blog.

The difference between successful people and settlers is the unrelenting inability to not chase your dreams. Life is way too short to think so poorly of yourself that you talk yourself down from your dreams.

If you’re not chasing your dreams, you can bet that someone else will. While your slogging through the shit, day after day, just to make a paycheck- someone else is living your dream.¬†

Now, sometimes I consider it a gift and a curse. I am fortunate in the aspect that I will never settle. On the contrary, I am constantly seeking new opportunity for myself to grow and develop as a professional. 

My Cove staff (if you’re reading this) you can attest to the fact that I always say “keep your head in the clouds, your eyes on the prize and your feet on the ground”

If you are not constantly learning, I’m convinced your slowly getting dumber.¬†

If I’m starting to ramble, I will try and bring this to a concise conclusion.

Follow your fucking dreams. (Pardon my language, kind of)

Keep working, keep learning, stay focused and never settle. Follow your heart.

 

Everyone is self made. What you make of yourself is completely up to you.

Why you shouldn’t give a f$#k what anyone thinks about you, <3

You walk into a party with some friends, people look at you and quickly look away.

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What are they thinking? 

A) WHAT is he wearing?

B) I wonder if they are dating

C) If B isn’t true, he’s hott or he’s butt ugly

 

You walk into a McDonald’s with your child. A few older people glance over at you, then continue their Big Mac adventure.

- She’s bringing her child to McDonald’s?

- That child will be obese.

- What kind of parenting is that?

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(Also, I HATE using this image. This child will forever identify as the overweight child used for any and every childhood obesity mention)

Do you see where I’m going with this? If not, you should reread above.

No matter where you go, people will judge you. They will question your life decisions, your wardrobe choices and scrutinize every single move you make.

Whether its your boss, your family members, your good friend or a complete stranger, people will always judge you.

So what’s the point of this blog? This blog has one simple goal, and that is to help you realize one thing:

Why should you give a fuck what anyone thinks about you?

Truly. 

Pardon my language, but whatever. 

What’s inevitable is that our society, as a whole, has been taught to make assumptions, jump to conclusions and tear anyone apart in an effort to make ourselves feel better.

I’m as guilty as Regina George, but instead of trying to change the behavior of others, we need to look inward and change our own behavior.

It’s a simple idea, but difficult to execute.

So I’m sitting here, 10:30 in the morning and I’m drinking wine, belting out the Thong Song, and about to get real deep.

Insecurity peaks in middle school/high school. We are trained to praise beauty and perfection from all media outlets.

The fact of the matter is that not all girls are twig skinny, they don;t all have perfect teeth, or perfect tans or perfect hair. 

Not all boys are in great shape, great athletes with great futures ahead of them, with great skin and great aspirations to be the next Albert Einstein.

We need to realize that the only person we can judge is ourselves.

We are the characters that we create.

We are the personalities that we cultivate.

Life is too short to be insecure and worried about what other people think about you.

If you’re trying to make your parents proud- good for you.

But what happens when your parents are proud? Are you happy with yourself? Are you happy that you put your own personal needs and desires aside to gain their approval?

Our parents have lived their lives. They’ve made their own decisions. It’s our turn now. Our turn to make our mistakes, do what ever the hell we want and provide little to no explanation.

Some of you probably think I’m a punk, or some sort of rebel homo but I simply don’t care.

People will form their own opinions of you no matter what you do. They will think you’re irresponsible, ugly, fat, annoying, alcoholic, ungrateful- whatever adjectives they can think of- they will label you with.

The point I’m taking a long time to get to is that you need to put everything in place to set yourself up for happiness your whole life. Start today.

Let me tell you, someone who is happy has everything in life.

It takes a strong character to disregard every insult or criticism they have ever heard. 

Bottom line- live for you, live for now. Do what makes you happy and forget the haters. They will be there regardless- but if you see them or not is up to you.

 

I love you all, I’m out.

The Art of the Choke

While on a rampage fueled by hunger and enhanced by coffee, I tore through my fridge like a hurricane. 

In a fortunate turn of events, the gates of heaven opened up and three beautiful artichokes graced my line of vision.

Eureka! I knew I had bought them, but totally forgot about them. Luckily, I caught them right in time. 

I plucked them from the crisper drawer (ouch) and found inspiration for this very blog,

“The Art of the Choke”

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This is an artichoke in its purest form. If you are at this stage, you’ve realized that there are little friggin prickly thorns on the end of each leaf…um, OUCH.

 

So your first step is to trim those little shits right off. I chose kitchen shears, and Edward Scissorhanded those babies. I also trimmed off some of the stem, which becomes bitter when cooked.

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Here we go. Bret Michaels says that “Every Rose Has its Thorn” but Adam Michael (That’s me!) says “Every Artichoke Shouldn’t”...less clever, equally valid.

 

From this point on, the sky is the limit. Some suggest steaming the artichoke whole, which would mean you later on take out the inedible inside.

For me, I like to be upfront with everything I do. So, I cut them in half lengthwise, and use a spoon to carve out the fibrous center, or the “choke”.

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As depicted above, the half on the left has been half carved with a spoon to remove the choke. Once the choke is removed, and every artichoke is halved, put them in a shallow pan (leaves down) and add about one inch of water.

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At this point, I lightly salt the artichokes and throw in some garlic cloves to add aroma while steaming.

Then, you put that Cleveland Steamer right on the stove, medium high at first, then reduce to a simmer to steam thoroughly. 

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This is the hardest part. WAITING.

(Jeopardy music plays, about 15 minutes pass)

Check your artichokes. You want the leaves to be all loosey goosey, and pull apart from the center.

The color changes to an unattractive puke green color. But don’t be discouraged! That’s normal. :)

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STOP:

At this point in time, you can melt some butter and enjoy your artichokes right away. 

But for those of you who know me, mediocrity was never my goal.

What I do now, to impart even more amazing flavor, is fire up the grill pan (if you do not have  grill pan for stove top use- GET ONE) and brush each artichoke with olive oil. 

Placing them cut side down on the grill pan (which should be on medium heat), grill the artichoke halves until lightly charred and grilled to perfection! 

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When the artichokes are done on the grill, pull them off. Duh.

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Voila! Those are some beautifully grilled artichokes!

The final step in this endeavor is to melt about a teaspoon of butter with a teaspoon of olive oil. Then, drizzle over the top of each artichoke, paying attention to the leaves – cause that’s where we eat!¬†

Top them with some homemade breadcrumbs (refer to my “Crumby Morning” blog) and prepare to enjoy!¬†

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Holy shit, that looks amazing.

In order to eat these babies, you must pluck out each leaf, holding the tip that you previously trimmed, put it in your mouth and pull the leave out. The flesh is towards the bottom/end of the leaf. 

After eating each leaf, one by one, you will have a little bit of the heart in at the end, and this is perfectly edible and completely delicious! 

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This is an artichoke grave yard. I tore through those things like a hurricane, much like I did when  I first stumbled upon them in the refrigerator.  

 

That’s all I have for you folks, hope you enjoyed.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE leave comments, tweet me, page me- whatever. I love feed back! 

 

I like my Bailey’s with a little coffee

Monday. The most dreaded day of the week for most.

My room mates are up, at ‘em and out the door by 8AM. For me, I’ve been sleeping for about 4-5 hours, and the sun starts to heat up my bedroom.

Penny the pup starts barking, and the sun starts to make me feel like a lizard under a heat lamp.

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(Just call me Lizard McGuire.)

Yawnnnn, I finally get up around 9:30, when Penny refuses to keep quiet. I’m not mad at her, she’s just excitable.

I lift the puppy gate and Penny comes running up to cuddle with Auntie Adam. Of course, she falls asleep within minutes and I am rendered motionless, cause I don’t want to wake her up! That’s rude.

So, I blast some of the new Fall Out Boy, pull out that awful tie dyed tee shirt I used to wear when I scooped ice cream and I start my day. 

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After a breakfast of some leftover chicken and macaroni salad, I find myself on the couch watching Ace Ventura. 

Trust me, I wanted to be productive today…I have a basement to clean, some laundry to do and I should exercise, I’m starting to feel like Christina Aguilera (about 6 months ago)

The beatdown of the weekend sabotaged those ideas, and instead I settled with spray painting a wooden yoga sculpture and thought that was enough.

The new piece of the Keurig came in today, along with Kyle’s deep v neck. So naturally, I made an iced coffee with Bailey’s. Unbenounced to me, the “large cup” option on the Keurig does not allow room for Bailey’s. Ruh roh.

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I know what you’re thinking… “What type of lazy free loader sits on his ass on Monday’s, day drinking and eating like he’s pregnant?!”

I do, bitch.

This weekend I graduated, whooped it up with my gay friends (no explanation required) and saw a beautiful baby boy, Madden, become baptized with his amazing family. I will enjoy this day off

Here is a breakdown of my Sunday Funday.

At the after party, between a glass of pinot noir and some fresh pickles, I asked my aunt if I could help with anything. Now I’ll admit, sometimes I ask if someone needs help ¬†with hopes that they will reply with “no no, I’m all set!” but this was a sincere offer to my lovely aunt, Cioci Doreen. She paused, and told me to survey the spread and tell her what she was missing.

She wasn’t missing anything. The food spread had a perfect balance of textures, colors, food groups; all presented appropriately and stocked adequately. This is what I do, there is so much more than putting some chips into a bowl.

My cousin, Jessica, mother of Madden, took a moment to tell me how much she loves this blog! Thanks, Jess! This one’s for you!

I ate, I drank, I practically fell asleep, but with the Sunday get together winding down, we hit the road to return to our thrones in Worcester. 

At home, we watched the Billboard Music Awards. The room mates argued back and forth about whether or not Justin Bieber is cute, why Taylor Swift acts like a 13 year old, and why, JUST WHY was Selena Gomez dancing in slow motion?

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More like SLOWlena Gomez!

The pinnacle of the show was when random star Miguel leaped across a pit of people, only to fall short and crush two fans. Literally, crushed them. He tweeted that he got caught up, and that the girl was okay. I say, Miguel, if you’re reading this, I don’t actually know who you are, but stay put and do a duet with Kelly Clarkson.

Fortunately missing a performance by Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne, I was the first one in bed last night. I layed down at around 10:45 and fell asleep around 2:30. 

A grand Sunday it was. 

And Monday is looking less active, but just as relaxive. I made up that word so it would rhyme. 

I love you beautiful people, ciao for now!

This blog is about motivation

There it is. Cut and dry, crystal clear. This blog is about motivation.

Motivation is a raw, unadulterated tendency and desire that some people have. 

It is often hard to find, because you can only find it inside, and sometimes finding it is half the battle.

There is no magic word. There is no pill you can take or book you can read to become motivated. 

And it’s not an overnight thing. Motivation isn’t temporary, or shouldn’t be at least.

Like anything else in your life, (ie. health, weight, eyebrows..) motivation must be maintained. 

I think motivation is synonymous with momentum. I’ve been quoted as saying that life is all about momentum. It is up to you to start it, to gain it, and to keep it. If you decide to slow down your momentum, you will eventually stop moving forward.

Motivation is the difference between settling for something you are unhappy with, and finding absolute happiness or discovering pride along the way. 

So, where do you find motivation?

I can speak openly about this topic because I’ve found it. And I have a firm hold on the idea.¬†

I’m the product of a broken, dysfunctional family. I’ve seen, heard and experienced a lot of things that no child should.¬†

Did I let that break me? Absolutely not. 

I had two options : grow up or give up. 

Clearly, I chose the latter of the two. 

I knew growing up wasn’t going to be easy. High school wasn’t going to be easy, family life wasn’t going to be easy. In addition to that, I was discovering my sexuality and trust me, that is no walk in the park either.

Growing up in a lower middle class family, I saw what it was like to be without. My parents did everything they could, and of course I love them to death and do not blame them at all.

At a very young age I knew that nothing would be handed to me. I knew that if I wanted something, I needed to go out, find it and take it.

I decided that I should go to college early. High school lost its shine after a few years, and with a career in mind, I had no reason to waste another year. 

I was 16 years old, filling out my FAFSA, completing pre-acceptance assignments and going on interviews with admissions officers.

I was accepted to Johnson & Wales University when I was 16 years old, and started shortly after turning 17. This was a defining moment in my life, the momentum had started. 

My sophomore year, the financial burden started weighing down on me. I needed something more, I couldn’t afford the cost of education, but couldn’t afford to drop out.

I became an RA. What I needed was the scholarship at first, but what I got out of it is invaluable. The connections I made, the things I learned and the endless skills I gained throughout that process is more important than any amount of money. This added momentum. I was speeding up a little.

So I started taking extra courses here and there, I enrolled in a summer term. 

I fell in love, and I fell out of love. Through that time in my life, my momentum rose and fell like some sort of roller coaster. The speed was there, but the highs and lows were more in focus.

In ResLife, I applied to be a Head Resident Assistant. I knew I had what it took to lead and manage a staff. I was a late applicant, and only one position was still open. I got the open position, and felt faster than ever. I was snowballing into this wildly driven individual, and with every challenge, I saw opportunity.

I needed an internship for my final trimester at college. It was getting down to the wire, and my previous plans had fallen through. I sent my resume to a place I had my eye on for a while. Equipped with a portfolio, I was ready to dazzle the owner of the restaurant.

I did just that. Maybe not dazzled, but he was impressed. At least I think so, considering he offered me a full-time paid internship with a strong possibility for employment after interning.

I was a boy on fire. Nothing was going to stop me. My past was less than ideal, but that shaped the focus and the charisma I have today.

Through my internship, I realized I was not happy with what I was doing. The hours, the creative ability, the structure (or lack there of) had all been weighing down on me. I wasn’t happy, and I wanted out.

I saw a post about a management opportunity at another restaurant with a killer concept. On a whim, I sent my resume and some additional information.

I got an email shortly after, asking for an interview. I saw with the owner, we talked for quite some time and she saw something in me that was more than a good smile or well kept hair.

She saw my passion, she saw my unrelenting desire to succeed with anything I do. She mentioned my age, and jokingly I declared that I would refuse to tell anyone who asked. I am twenty years old. Technically, I should still be in school. Been there, accomplished that.

I am attending my graduation ceremony this Saturday, receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Food Service Management with an Associate’s already under my belt.

I am the Front of the House Manager of a well established restaurant here, before even graduating. 

Some people would say I’m blessed. Some people would say luck was certainly on my side. I think those people are wrong. I credit my accomplishments to my work ethic, and endless drive. I don’t believe in luck.

I tell a lot of people not to just dream at night, but to dream all day. 

I’ve met a lot of great people. I’ve said goodbye to a lot of them too. They know as well as I do that its all about momentum. Places I’ve been, people I’ve met and work I’ve done has all given me momentum. Saying goodbye and moving forward is the hardest thing in life, but the most important.

On Saturday, I will walk across the stage, and officially be underway with my career, although I’ve already started. I live in a gorgeous house with my room mates, I have everything I need. Not because I’ve gotten lucky, but because I’ve earned it.

I’m Adam Maciejewski, 20 years old, Manager/Mentor, with endless momentum. At this point in my life, I’m crushing the speed limit. Closer to the speed of light.

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I am a boy on fire.