1-Year Anniversary

It seems as though we’ve come full circle. It’s been a year of good friends, cultural experiences and fine eats. To celebrate this anniversary it seemed only appropriate to gather in a cozy setting to share a little down time at the end of summer. So, where can you find such a place in New York City? Well, Friend of a Farmer is the answer!

In anxious anticipation of the reunion, one loyal but confused member made a journey to Brooklyn in search of the establishment. After realizing that the Farmer’s Friend was only a few subway stops away from her apartment in Manhattan, she felt very silly!
An hour later, after much patient waiting, by the rest of the group, they were allunited for a hearty meal. The atmosphere was that of acountry home with a warm and familiar feel –very distant from the surroundings that were just beyond the front door. As we sat in front of the fireplace with mini skillets full of eggs with various mix-ins, also known as omelettes, we chatted about the latest happenings with work, boyfriends and summer travel.
Once we were filled to the brim, an alternative side of the group was exposed as one member shared her most recent acquisitions in bedroom attire with all. The conversation did turn again and the group adjourned with big plans for the fall. On tap for 2009 show and tell, a photographing journey through NewYork and floral escapes to come….STAY TUNED!


Om Sweet Om

From Jackson Heights to Jivamukti to the Taj Mahal, CCNY members ventured wide and far before they journeyed Om.

Across the country, Americans compete with their neighbors for the best yard or biggest house or fanciest car. But in a small block radius in Queens, NY, it's all about Keeping Up with the Patels.

And so the girls of CCNY did just that. Only 15 minutes outside of Manhattan, CCNY traveled to Jackson Heights, Queens to step foot into a culture where jewel tones are the norm and black is an unfavorable color.

The afternoon started with a brief walking tour of Indian gold jewelry and apparel stores filled with beaded saris and kurtas. Statues of well-known Hindu gods graced the window fronts of several stores.

Here it is where CCNY members learned of Ganesha, Shiva, Krishna, Durga and more. To get in true Indian spirit, we entered a Bollywood music and film store where we danced and ogled at Shahrukh Khan, India's version of Brad Pitt.

Before heading back to the city, we stopped for some temporary Indian henna tattoos. Little did we know, they last for a few weeks and that we would have to wait for them to dry and flake off. Wait this reminds me...kinda sounds like someone's eczema, doesn't it?

With Jackson Heights behind us, we were now headed to Jivamukti for what we thought was an Intro to Yoga. Whoever said "there's no sweating in yoga" has never been to Jivamukti. I can speak on behalf of the group and confidently say Jivamukti may be one of, if not the best, yoga studios in the city. For more information, visit www.jivamuktiyoga.com. (picture of group taken after our workout (sorry about the focus some tourists just can't take a picture)
After an intense workout, those who worked up an appetite and weren't afraid to tantalize their taste buds headed to the Taj Mahal in NYC's Curry Row.
As a traditional Indian feast goes, each member left with a full belly. We dined on chicken vindaloo, samosas, saag paneer, raita, naan and chutney before we said goodbye to our new turban-wearing friends.


Memoirs Of A New York Geisha

Sakura Matsuri, the festival of cherry blossoms, is one of the most important celebrations in Japan, signifying the welcome of spring and the transitory nature of life.

For the girls of CCNY it was an ideal day to channel their inner Geishas, say farewell to a gray winter and learn about our friends in the Land of The Rising Sun. The quick journey to The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens was almost as good as having a first class ticket to the Far East, minus the leg cramps.

Tulips, peonies and lilacs perfumed the air as the girls strolled through the Japanese garden. Sunning turtles and ornamental Koi became the main attraction, to which one member exclaimed, “Are those Catfish? I like fried Catfish”.

Soon the Geishas were shuffling off to origami folding. There were many colorful sites along the way--sushi pillows, kimono robed geishas and bonsai trees.

During the diversion, we learned that our colorful paper parasols were the envy of all! One of our coveted treasures doubled as a Samurai sword for one tap-happy member who was bent on the destruction of her pretty prop.

Back at the cherry esplanade, members relaxed in the sun as the petals fluttered and sampled beautiful Japanese sweet treats from Minamoto Kitchoan, to which we all agreed must be an acquired taste.

Although the girls learned that they were past the prime age (16) of becoming a true geisha apprentice, known as a Maiko (literal meaning dancing child) they still welcomed the lessons as if we were in Kyoto training for the tea houses.

One lesson that should be shared—Geishas always wear their obi in the back, never in the front for this signifies a prostitute. This is a lesson not to be Lost in Translation.

It was time to head to 9th street, known as little Tokyo. The maikos settled into the tranquil Japanese tea house, Cha-An. While members took turn visiting the hi-tech toilet, one brave member ordered the traditional Japanese tea, Matcha, which is green tea powder whisked into a frothy concoction that tastes like grass clippings blended with milk.

The final stop on the Orient Express was the tiny little noodle shop Ramen Setagaya. With Sumo sized appetites and chopsticks in hand, they apprehensively prodded their bowls. Once the strange looking pork slices were moved aside, we were slurping away and quite surprised at how delicious the “McDonald’s of the East” could be.


Year of the Rat

It all began in a land not so far away known as the Upper East Side. We gathered to view ancient Asian artwork but the girls of CCNY were a little too much for the staff at The Asia Society Museum (our first stop), as they accompanied us through the exhibits and quickly ended our attempt to re-create a prom-like picture on the museum staircase. After leisurely viewing the scrolls and pottery of the Far East, we were all ready to scurry into the unknown. On our journey to a more exotic place, known as Chinatown, we were privileged enough to encounter a large black dog the size of a small bear.
We all took a moment to take in the hustle and bustle on the streets of Chinatown. As we made our way down winding Mott street a few notable "C-town" favorites were pointed out: The Ice Cream Factory, The Vegetarian Dim Sum House and Ting's Gift shop.

Taking in the smells both savory and unsavory. Finally ending on East Broadway at Dim Sum Go Go where we feasted on shrimp dumplings, pumpkin cake, lotus wraps and more. Lauren was a little apprehensive but we talked her into trying a few things and she re-assured us a burger may be necessary later that night.

After the meal, the fun was not over there were still pastries to share. Without a place to sit and eat we dug into the pineapple bun, egg custard and coconut pie right outside the restaurant. We all shared in the delight of the flavors and picked our favorites. To our disgust mid-conversation we were all distracted by an abrupt noise behind us. A loud hacking erupted from a man standing behind and in an instant we were all scurrying home!!


Rushin' Russian

Though the weather wasn't as frigid as the typical climate in Mother Russia, the Culture Club embarked on a journey to Uncle Vanya's, an authentic Russian cafe named after Chekhov's play, in the heart of Midtown. We sampled some Russian cuisine such as blinis, spinach pancakes, Russian dumplings, beef stroganoff, and washed it all down with some of Uncle Vanya's homemade cranberry infused vodka, which is strong enough to knock you from here to Moscow.

After noshing on some classic Russian offerings, we came to the conclusion that there is a reason Russians are known for vodka and not their culinary prowess. We then decided to explore this complex country through its history and trademarks - we discovered, among other things, that Russians are a force to be reckoned with in the community of arts and sciences, and Russia itself accounts for 1/8 of Earth's land area and is considered a mineral and energy superpower! The Culture Club thought it best to apply some of this new knowledge to a little game of trivia about Russian influence in American Pop Culture, which turned into a cut-throat battle of... hand raising.

Before leaving Uncle Vanya for the day, we asked our waiter to take a picture of our group. We charged our vodka glasses and asked him how "Cheers" is translated in Russian, to which he replied, "We don't Cheers." Such is known to be the icy nature of our Kremlin comrades, but it didn't cool our heels, as we next decided to don our fur hats and warm up in the Russian Vodka Room a few blocks away. Just in time for attitude adjustment hour, we sipped their signature infused vodka creations, reflected on our journey, and enjoyed some equally authentic Russian atmosphere. The day concluded with sharing homemade Russian Tea Cakes to take our separate ways, and a recipe to make them the next time we're Rushin' for a little Russian.


Southern Soul

Southern Soul Day began with down-home cooking at Miss Maude's Spoonbread Too in Harlem. The menu included fried chicken and catfish, sweet potatoes, collard greens, mac & cheese and red velvet cake. According to the New York Post, Spoonbread has the BEST FRIED CHICKEN IN NYC and we'd have to agree. The food was absolutely delicious and highly recommended especially on a cold December day. As we dined, one CCNY member educated others about what it means to be a true Southern Gal. Straight from the pages of 'Grits - Girls Raised in the South', we learned how to drink like a Southern lady (sip...a lot), attract the attention of a man (wear the color peach and not fold your arms), and much more.

Following brunch, the group took a stroll through Harlem viewing historic sights. Much to our surprise, we stumbed across Astor Row, a group of 28 semi-attached row houses built in the 1880s by William Astor. Located on 130th Street between Fifth and Lenox Avenues in Harlem, each double building shared a turned-wood porch in the Victorian style. Our next stop was at one of the most well-known music venues in American history - The Apollo Theater. More than just a historic landmark, The Apollo Theater is filled with a rich history of legendary artists such as Billie Holiday, James Brown and Stevie Wonder, all who have performed on stage. Constructed in 1914, the Apollo Theater is located on 125th street in the heart of Harlem. Today, emerging artists continue to perform with hopes and dreams of making it big.

The day ended with a stop at Carol's Daughter, a beautiful store filled with deliciously scented products for the face, body, hair and home. We indulged ourselves with lotions, creams, hair serums and lip balm. If you are interested in learning more about these products, visit www.carolsdaughter.com.


Oktoberfest 2007

Our Bavarian adventure started out in lower Manhattan, where we donned Frauline attire and dined on German fare such as potato pancakes with applesauce and lingonberries, bratwurst and weisswurst with sweet mustard and bread, homemade pretzels with mustard, and the all-around favorite "Hot Dog Stew" a.k.a. potato soup with smoked bacon (a.k.a. hot dogs!) and croutons. Frauline Collette fancied a certain schnietzel, "Y'all, I love white schnietzel!"

We enjoyed giant steins of Spaten Oktoberfest and Hefeweizen beers. After eating and imbibing, we headed off to Zum Schneider in Alphabet city to partake in an Oktoberfest, complete with an Oompa band. Since that place was a bit crowded, we decided to go to another bar down the block (and drink beer anyway!). That may have turned out to be a “bust” (which described our waitress) because we strayed from the theme of the day, but a good time was had, some culture was learned, and it was here that we wound down the afternoon of the “I Heart Schnitzel Oktoberfest!” Auf Wiedersehen!


El Calor Del Verano. El Fuego Del Tango.

Oh, Argentina. Te Quiero Mucho.

Ahhhh...the empanada, a "flaky pocket of goodness". The day began at Gauchas on 1st Ave. in Yorkville, a small Argentinean restaurant known for their empanadas. We feasted on a variety of flavors including: Gaucha (Beef), Gaucha Picante (Spicy Beef), Pollo (Chicken), Espinaca (Spinach), Capresse (Mozzarella, Tomato & Basil), Mexicana (Chicken w/ Mole Poblano), Jamon (Ham & Cheese), and Humita (Corn). It was dificult to determine which was our favorite.

The next stop of the day took us to Sicaffe on Lexington Avenue, known for having the best coffee in Manhattan. We can surely attest to that. The coffee was amazingly rich and well roasted. Now that we were caffienated, we were ready to learn Tango.

Each Sunday, Session 73 on the Upper East Side offers tango lessons for $10. Our instructor Lucille was quite passionate about the dance of the Tango. She went on and on and on and on about the "shoe swap" - an event in which fellow Tango'ers can exchange used shoes with each other. Unfortunately we didn't realize the importance of having proper shoes for Tango as a few of us had a put rubber bands around our feet to keep our shoes on.

It was a small group lesson, just the four of us, that is until we met John from North Carolina who "appeared" to be a Southern gentleman. Can we say "Yes Ma'am" ? He was the only guy there until a Harry Potter look-a-like showed up. He had been studying tango for 1.5 years and was extremely serious about the movements. Although he claimed to not be an instructor, his inner teacher was in full force.

After a few hours, it was time to say Adios amigas.


Life of the Upper Crust

To kick off the first of many adventures, CCNY members met at the Skyport on the East River to set sail on a 75-foot yacht around the greatest city in the world -- New York. Members were greeted by the yacht's staff and were directed to find a seat on the upper level.

The yacht departed from the pier traveling south on the East River toward lower Manhattan. Brunch was served on the lower level. The other yacht guests suddenly transformed into human vultures, rudely piling their plates sky high, getting second helpings, and eating everything in sight before the upper deck ever had a chance to enjoy the meal. With the Manhattan skyline to the right and views of Long Island City and Brooklyn to the left, the yacht passed under the Williamsburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges and headed south. Within minutes, members were admiring breathtaking views of the Statue of Liberty. The yacht then proceeded to sail north up the West side of Manhattan traveling as far as Edgewater, New Jersey. It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and there were few clouds in the sky. A cool breeze occassionally swept through the air. No one could have asked for a better day.

After 3 hours in the sun, CCNY members were sunburnt, spent and ready to return to land. Once onshore, an energetic member (who shall be known as "red thighs") coerced the others to take a much longer than promised hike along the East side of the city to visit the historic South Street Seaport. In the early to mid 1800s, the South Street Seaport was known as the center of shipping around the world. Merchants, horse-drawn carriages and saloons filled the cobblestone streets. It was a gathering place for many inhabitants.

The next stop that day to visit was The Bridge Cafe, the oldest surviving tavern in New York and one-time home to a brothel. The Bridge Café is located in a simple wood-frame building erected in 1794 and rumors of ghosts of the pirates who frequented the bar continue. Curious members were entertained by the cafe's bartender with stories of scattered papers in the upstairs office and the sounds of closing doors when no one else was there. Unfortunately, there weren't any suspicious sightings however a brief ghost presence was felt near Shippy. Spooky. Although times have changed and the Brooklyn Bridge has since been built, this historical site provides members with a taste of New York past and present.

The night ended with a game of Trivial Pursuit: I Love the 80s. Tired and weary, the game quickly turned into a game of charades to liven up matters. That lasted all of a few minutes. It was time to say to goodbye, and concensus said that the first CCNY adventure was a successful one.

CCNY will explore many more cultures in the upcoming months. Stay tuned for the next adventure...


Escape from Cubeland

Once upon a time, in a cube not so far away, sat a couple of marketing gurus who dreamed of seeing the world beyond a 10' x 10' box. Long hours in front of a computer, endless proposal requests and limited vacation time prohibited these two lovely ladies from traveling the world as they desired.

Attempts to climb out and break down the walls proved to be impossible. The only logical solution to finding a way out would be to put their creative minds to work. Together, this dynamic duo joined forces and met the challenge head on.

Alas, 'Culture Club NY' was formed.