new favorite restaurant: Fort Reno BBQ

Warning: bold statement ahead.

Fort Reno BBQ is my favorite restaurant in Brooklyn.

Fort Reno is a very new, very tiny barbecue restaurant in Park Slope on Union Street. (Supposedly, it is the Slope’s ONLY barbecue restaurant… for now. Dinosaur BBQ is coming soon!) It is completely and totally “Brooklyn hipster,” with mustachioed bartenders, old-timey cocktails, reclaimed wood tables, and local, grass fed meat. I’ve been three times.

Usually, I try to avoid Brooklyn hipster hangouts — I’m just not cool enough — but ever since becoming a full-fledged marathon runner, I have been craving meat more than anything else. More than sweets even! I know. Crazy. (It is sort of a problem since my husband has decided to be a vegetarian marathon runner. Thankfully, I have meat eating friends.)

Once upon a time, I hated ribs (too much trouble) but lately they are all I think about. The rotating menu at Fort Reno contains anything from brisket to pulled pork and chicken to sliced beef to Saint-Louis-style ribs. Thankfully, each time I’ve been, ribs have been on the menu. They also offer southern-style sides, like mac & cheese, coleslaw, biscuits, collard greens, baked beans, red beet salad, and corn bread. You order your food at a counter and then take it to your table on a tray with butcher paper. Drinks (including a selection of $10 specialty house cocktails) are ordered at a separate bar.

The house-made barbecue sauce and the sides are all great, but I don’t even care. All I care about is ribs!!! I may have a problem. You can order them in a 1/4, 1/2, or full order. (Far above is a photo of the half order, above is a full order.) They are so meaty and tender and slide right off the bone, and I love their dry rub seasoning. So good!

I have a bad/good feeling that Fort Reno will be unbearably crowded once summer truly begins. I had better fit in plenty of dinners there before that happens! Thankfully, I already have my fourth trip planned for Sunday afternoon…

Read more about Fort Reno on Here’s Park Slope and Serious Eats.

What is your favorite Park Slope restaurant?

all about me, me, me

Isn’t this blog always about me, you ask? Well, yes, but today it is even more so. I was “tagged” by the fun and adorable Mrs Whiffo, so I MUST share some fun facts about myself…

The rules of the game:

  1. Each tagged person must post 11 things about themselves on their blog.
  2. They must also answer the 11 questions the tagger has set for them, plus create 11 new questions for the people they tag.
  3. Then they choose 11 new people to tag (no tag backs) and link to them in the post.

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11 things about ME!

  1. I work from home.
  2. I love historic buildings and old houses.
  3. I am very interested in religion (but I’m NOT religious) and want to know EVERYTHING about EVERY religion in the world.
  4. My favorite painter is Wayne Thiebaud.
  5. When I was a child, I wanted to be an Egyptologist when I grew up.
  6. I cannot get enough of Star Trek.
  7. I sort of have a crush on Liam Neeson.
  8. I want to learn to shoot a firearm.
  9. I really like Twitter. Follow me!
  10. I plan to travel a lot when I grow up.
  11. I wish I could serendipitously find a piece of Art Nouveau Louis Comfort Tiffany jewelry at a junk shop for 50 cents… so that I could take it on Antiques Roadshow and cause a sensation.

11 Questions from Mrs. Whiffo:

  1. What is your favourite candy bar?
  2. There are so many good ones, it is hard to choose… but Twix has been pretty good to me lately. (I eat them during marathons.)

  3. Who would play you in the movie of your life?
  4. OMG. Please say it could be Gwyneth Paltrow!

  5. … and who would write the soundtrack?
  6. Tom Petty

  7. Where is your happy place?
  8. On the couch with Crusher and Travis.

  9. Coke or Pepsi?
  10. Diet Coke! Yum.

  11. Favorite Film?
  12. Hmmmm. Terminator or Alien. I love a true female heroine who saves herself.

  13. Show me your tattoos, or your “would be” tattoos!
  14. I don’t have any… but I want one. This tattoo idea is from Travis, but I think it is a good one: get a hash mark on a foot for each marathon I complete.

  15. Favorite book?
  16. This is a difficult question. The book that most blew my mind was Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder, but I need to read it again…

  17. What item do you carry with you at all times?
  18. My iPhone.

  19. Which Simpsons character are you?
  20. I want to be Bart, but I’m probably Marge.

  21. Why do you write a blog?
  22. My blog is basically my scrapbook and I love having it as a record of what I’ve done. It is definitely just a selfish thing. No one else is going to tell my life story, so I might as well do it!

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11 Questions for YOU:

  1. What is your favorite restaurant?
  2. What is your lucky number?
  3. Who is your favorite CNN anchor? (Mine is Wolf Blitzer.)
  4. Would you ever get plastic surgery?
  5. Do the Freemasons secretly rule the world/control the global economy? Also, is JayZ one of them?
  6. What is your all-time favorite video game?
  7. If you could leave on a vacation right now, where would you go?
  8. Gelato, ice cream, or sorbet?
  9. If you could travel back in time (without disturbing the space-time continuum) which era would you visit first?
  10. What is your favorite song?
  11. What is the best way to get rid of mice in an old apartment building? (Really, I must know.)

The 11+ bloggers I am tagging:

Crissy | Lauren | Jessica | Joel | Casey | Bunny Log Lisa |
Libby | Paul | Seth | Adam/Nina | Aaron | Amber | Travis

* Tag-ees: You don’t really have to do the whole process, but 11 facts about you would be fun! You can even put them in the comments!

Mile End Delicatessen

Last week, I took a lunch trip with my friend, Brian, to Mile End Delicatessen. The deli has received a lot of buzz and hype since it opened at the end of 2010. It was created by a Montreal couple, Noah Bernamoff and Rae Cohen, who wanted to re-create the Jewish deli comfort food that they missed from home.

Mile End is a tiny, tiny shop right off Atlantic Ave in Boerum Hill. Brian and I went for a mid-week lunch and luckily got the last two seats at a shared table. (Don’t worry, Travis was not jealous. Mile End does not have many vegetarian options.) We ordered the signature dishes: the Matzo Ball Soup and Poutine to share, and I got the Smoked Meat Sandwich on Rye and Brian ordered the Beef on Weck.

It was all so, so, so, so good! I wish I were more of a food critic and could discuss the different textures and flavor profiles, but sadly I am just an inarticulate lay preson who likes good food. I can tell you that the Smoked Meat Sandwich blew Katz’s Deli away, and I am a huge pastrami fan. The poutine was salty and delicious and the matzo ball soup was heavy on dill, which was perfect. I was a very happy customer… as you can tell by my stuffed-mouth smile above.

Dinner at Mile End looks interesting (with chopped liver, lamb’s tongue, and veal shortbreads) but I think it will remain a favorite lunch spot for me. I can’t wait to take out-of-town guests!

Now that I checked Mile End off of my restaurant wish list, I am eager to visit the rest of my list: Balthazar, Minetta Tavern, Little Neck, Pok Pok Wing, Momofuku Ko, Pies N Thighs, Fatty Cue, Brooklyn Fare… etc, etc…

gift guide: Rachel’s Favorite Things!

Rachel’s Favorite Things is sort of like Oprah’s Favorite Things, except that I won’t be giving away any free stuff. Sorry. What I WILL be giving out (hopefully) are some gift ideas for anyone on your list who you might think would like some of the same things I do.

These are all things I LOVE and would totally recommend for gift giving:

What are you giving and/or hoping to be getting for the holidays this year? (FYI: I already have the items I listed here — they are my favorites — so this truly is just a gift guide, not a wish list. But hey, thanks for thinking of me!)

Broadway

Travis and I went to see “The Book of Mormon” on Broadway yesterday and I loved it so much that I had to jot down a quick review…

Some things about me: I am not that into live theater. Live singing and acting make me really nervous, mostly because I am so incredibly terrible at both that I transfer my own fears of embarrassment onto the performers. This nervousness is basically the reason why “The Book of Mormon” was my very first Broadway show experience. Also, I am fascinated by religion, so this was the first musical that I felt I HAD to see.

“The Book of Mormon” was written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the guys behind “South Park.” It has gotten impeccable reviews. I appreciate “South Park.” It is genius and hilarious, which I love, but it is also crude and vulgar. Some of that same shock-value humor is used in “The Book of Mormon.” I think that everyone who goes to the show will be expecting it, but if you’ve never seen “South Park,” the strong language used in the musical might offend… not that it should. It is all hilarious and true. And we are all adults, right?

With the disclaimer about “adult” language out of the way, I can get on to the love fest… What a fun, happy, adorable, smart, life-affirming show!! Even Mormons are finding the show “surprisingly sweet.” It is about two Mormon missionaries who are assigned to Uganda and the challenges they face in such an unfamiliar place. It is also about how humans and religion are flawed and funny and ridiculous, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to do good. We can have hope and faith in goodness, even if the details of religion are a little weird.

Parker and Stone describe “The Book of Mormon” as an “atheist love letter to religion.” That is a perfect description. I am not an atheist. I sort of consider myself pan-religious — open to all, devout to none — and “The Book of Mormon” affirmed my personal philosophies. So much so that I cried at the end. Not because the story is THAT touching, but because it felt so good to know that there are other people out there who are thinking the same things I am.

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If you want a taste of “The Book of Mormon,” you can listen to all of the songs from the show here on NPR. (Remember, I warned you about the language.)

currently…

reading: The Hunger Games and Catching Fire – I am LOVING these (young adult) books. A strong female main character, a post-apocalyptic world, romance… basically my favorite combo ever! I will definitely be writing a full blog post about this series once I finish Mockingjay.

drinking: Starbucks Tribute blend. I bought it with a gift card and have really been enjoying it freshly ground and brewed at home. yum!

playing: Tiny Wings! It is totally the new Angry Birds.

also playing: This blast from the past. I love you, hero.

mad at: Sarah Palin. I was never a fan, but her recent comments about NPR, the National Endowment for the Arts, and National Endowment for the Humanities being “frivolous things” feels like a personal slap in the face. Especially since the amount of money spent on her “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska ($223 million) far outweighs the entire annual federal arts agency budget ($161 million). Ouch.

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Past Currentlies: November 2010, February 2009, April 2008, January 2008 – Just a little historical reference for you.

be my valentine

I had the most fun birthday weekend (thanks to wonderful friends and family) and I can’t wait to tell you about it, but today I am thinking about all the things I love…

I LOVE sunny skies and melting snow!
I LOVE my little dog, even though he did NOT enjoy his Valentine portrait.
I LOVE leftover birthday cake. (And the awesome friend who made it!)
I LOVE leftover birthday balloons.
I LOVE texting <3
I LOVE heart-shaped candy.
I LOVE my new Ernie the envelope buttons for Swap-bot.
I LOVE this.
I LOVE that Justified is back on.
I LOVE that painter, Jasper Johns, is receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
I LOVE take out for dinner!
I LOVE staying in on Valentine’s Day with my true love.
I LOVE you!

4 splurges that were totally worth it

My father tried to install the value of minimalism in me, so I usually feel guilty when I get caught up in the commercial frenzy that is the holidays. Between my guilt over owning too much unnecessary junk and my fear of feeling of buyer’s remorse — not to mention the need to save money — I try to avoid going overboard in the shopping department. This holiday season was an exception. In addition to finding lots of gifts, I also managed to find a couple of items for myself. Thankfully, many of them exceeded my expectations.

Four holiday splurges that were totally worth it:

  • Givenchy Phenomen’Eyes Mascara – Mascara is something you need to replace fairly regularly, but I always have such a hard time finding (and then remembering) a kind that I like. I decided to give this Givenchy mascara a try because of the strange brush and a recommendation from the sales woman. It was slightly more pricey than other brands, but it turns out that I love the brush! The actual mascara formula is great too, not too thick and it doesn’t smudge. (FYI: I do usually follow with a second coat of another mascara with a normal brush.)
  • Benefit Poisetint – My friend, Lauren, recommended this cheek tint. I’ve used the darker Benetint before, but it can be hard to blend. This lighter pink color is perfect. Subtle and easy to use. I kind of hate blush because it is so hard to make it look natural, but this tint never looks over-done.
  • No6 Store Lace Up Shearling Leather Boot – Have I told you about my boots? My goodness, I love these shoes. I’d seen these boots on some fashionable ladies and knew I loved them, but it took some searching to find them. They are made by Swedish clog maker called, Sven, but this specific boot style is only sold at one store in Soho. I tracked them down just before we went on our holiday trip and I have been wearing them every since. They are lined in shearling, so they are totally warm. Plus, they are treated to withstand the elements. The price of these boots is definitely higher than I normally spend, but I have been more than happy with them and would recommend them to anyone looking for comfortable and cute winter boots.
  • Mischa Lampert hat – This hat was something I had seen and couldn’t stop thinking about, but in the end, it was an impulse buy. I was out shopping and just went a little crazy and bought it at Kisan. It is a super-simple knit hat, but I just love how funky and chunky it is. The wool is hand-dyed, hand-spun, and knit by the artist here in NY. I get compliments on it every time I where it and it is wonderfully warm.

I love when I don’t waste my money!! I also love getting good recommendations from friends. Are there any splurges you recently made that have totally been worth it?

Mutter Museum

My emphasized area of study in my grad program was “museum studies.” I learned a lot about museum operations and exhibition design. Contemporary exhibition design practices call for elaborate interactive exhibit sets that engage users in a variety of ways — kind of like Disney Land, but with educational components. We learned all about the importance of incorporating auditory, visual, and hands-on elements in each exhibit so that all learning types would feel welcome. One professor even went so far as suggesting olfactory elements (yes, smells) to entice viewers. (smellers?) We learned that nobody wants to visit a museum that just has a bunch of “old stuff” and long description labels on display… no one, that is, except me.

For me, the only reason to go to a museum is to see things you can’t normally see and learn things that you can’t normally learn. I love authentic “old stuff” and detailed scholarship. I am the type of person who actually tries to read all of the panels of object descriptions in a museum. I am so intrigued by the notion of cabinet of curiosities that it borders on obsession. The Mutter Museum, in Philadelphia, is something of a medical cabinet of curiosities that has been maintained and displayed for over 200 years.

The Mutter Museum is an arm of theThe College of Physicians of Philadelphia, founded in 1787 and the oldest professional medical organization in the country. The Museum was originally organized in 1858 using the personal medical collection of Thomas Dent Mutter, a professor of surgery at Jefferson Medical College. It was originally intended to be a teaching library for medical students, but as its collection grew (now with more than 25,000 objects) the museum moved into its current larger building and was opened to the public.

The museum collection contains everything from medical instruments and wax models to fluid-preserved anatomic specimens and skeletons. There is a collection of over 139 human skulls, shrunken heads, and even preserved fetuses. It is intense.

I was very much looking forward to visiting the Mutter Museum and was afraid I had hyped it too much in my own head, but it did not disappoint. I am very interested in things relating to health and medicine and I am glad I got to visit the museum with my brother, who is nearly done with medical school. He explained many things as we spent four hours touring the exhibits.

We were intrigued by the iron lung on display (and the fact that, as of 2008, there were still 30 patients still using them) and we took our time at the exhibit on criminal and forensic pathology. We weren’t as excited about the collection of animal skulls, but the human skulls were mesmerizing. I learned a lot about tumors and infections from the collection of disturbing wax models, and I was stunned by the pieces of tanned human skin. I am glad that we saved the section about genetic abnormalities for last because the preserved fetuses made me very sad and worried about the health of my own future children… I told you, it was intense.

In school we endlessly debated the ethical questions surrounding museum collections. (Like, should museums retain items taken from other cultures? And, who gets to decide what is museum worthy and what is not?) The questions get even more complicated when you are dealing with actual human remains. Some believe that displaying human body parts is disrespectful or even religiously blasphemous, and I am sure that the Mutter Museum has received its fair share of criticism.

Personally, I am thrilled that the Mutter exists for laypeople like myself who want to learn more about medicine and take more responsibility for their own bodies and health. I definitely rely on doctors as the experts, but I also want to be as educated as possible when it comes to my health. I am so glad that the Mutter has preserved their historic collection so that the humans whose bodies are represented in the collection can continue to educate visitors. Of course, many of the humans who are included in the collection did not get to decide whether or not to donate their remains… which is where things get tricky. So, for future reference, I am putting this in writing: I want to donate my body to science, education, and/or art.

Overall, the Mutter Museum was an amazing and somewhat overwhelming experience. I learned a lot about what can go wrong with the human body and also about man’s attempt to fix those problems. I definitely recommend the museum to anyone who is open to viewing human remains.

If you are interested in the Mutter Museum, check out their website or follow them on Twitter. Photography is not allowed in the museum, but occasionally professional photographers are allowed to interpret the museum through their camera lens. You can see some of those photos here. The Mutter also has an incredible museum store. It includes commissioned fine art and craft items, plus unique gift items exclusively created for the museum using images from the collections. I ended up buying quite a few things, including the fine art photography book.

omg! Martha!

The Martha Stewart Show

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend a live taping of the Martha Stewart Show. I have been wanting to attend a Martha taping ever since moving to New York, but I just couldn’t seem to make the time to go stand in line for stand-by tickets. Luckily, staff from the Martha Show saw one of my recent tweets about a Martha Stewart cookie recipe and contacted me. They were looking for Twitter enthusiasts to live-tweet the taping of yesterday’s Cookie Episode.

The Twitter group got to sit in a special section for the taping and we were encouraged to tweet throughout the show. We used the hashtag #MarthaTweets in all of our posts, and we basically just had a great time”reporting” on the show. (BTW, we weren’t told what to tweet or given any restrictions. All of the staff were extremely welcoming and nice.)

Because it was the Cookie Episode, we got to take home home baking loot and sample two cookies (sugar & Mexican chocolate). They were both delicious! Truly. I was impressed. I was also impressed with the efficiency and professionalism of the entire staff and crew. The taping went so smoothly and quickly with no mistakes. Another fun fact: Martha helped clean up the set during the commercial breaks. No one can say she isn’t an extremely hard worker!

Martha also announced her new Cookie iPad App during the show. We got to play with the app a bit and it truly is beautiful. It contains all of Martha’s cookie recipes and stunning photos. It is $7.99, which sounds pricey for an app, but if you like baking I think it is worth it. In comparison, the Martha Stewart Holiday Cookies magazine issue is $6.95.

If you want to see all of my tweets from the show, check out my @rljart Twitter account and check out this list of all the Twitter users who were in the audience yesterday. Follow the @TheMarthShow Twitter account for info and updates about the show, and click here to find out how you can be apart of the next audience Twitter section.

National Blog Posting Month 2010———-

This post is my second for this month, which happens to be National Blog Posting Month. Like past years, I am committing to publishing a blog post every day this month. I am not sure what I will be posting about each day, but hang with me – hopefully it will get interesting!