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Audrey S.

4 Level 4 Contributor
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Experience: Hobbies & Interests, Food & Drink, Beauty

Member since December 2007

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About Me

i like bread, pudding, and bread pudding

30 Reviews by Audrey

7/23/09
Located in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains just a few hours north of San Francisco, Whitewater Adventures provides one to two day no-fuss rafting trips from May-July. Absorb amazing scenery and wildlife while floating through hundreds of rapids in a remote volcanic canyon situated in the Upper Cache Creek in top-of-the line 2 to 5 person rafts (the majority of which are self-baling).

We did the two-day trip down the North Fork. It included a very thorough orientation session on what to expect and how to navigate safely down the runs. The rapids get more difficult as the run progresses, so there is plenty of time to get acclimated to paddling through them.

All the logistics, such as food (very impressive was the selection/variety), gear (rafts, paddles, jackets), and shuttling (to and from the start/end points and campsite) were taken care of by the well-trained and very friendly staff.

Overall, a very fun way to spend a weekend! Will definitely try to make it up again next year. :)
1/9/09
Creative and interesting visual/graphic art, plus some useful tips - Started by a Brazilian graphic/web designer, Fabio Sasso, Abduzeedo is a blog about the design world, its elements, and art experiments he’s captured thus far. A fun site to peruse and get useful information from (it has a tutorials section, most of which is focused on techniques in Photoshop).
A number of the collections he highlights are of every day people, places, and things. For example, Anderson Augusto and Leonardo Delafuente paint urban objects (e.g. storm drains, light posts, etc.) throughout Sao Paolo, the goal of which is to modify the way people view and reflect upon art, transforming daily life in their neighborhood by focusing on forgotten and/or indifferent objects: http://abduzeedo.com/amazing-gutter-art
Also good is their piece on High Dynamic Range Imaging (HDRI) pictures: http://abduzeedo.com/20-beautiful-hdr-pictures, with an accompanying tutorial on how to create them, and 3D chalk art by Julian Beever and Kurt Wenner: http://abduzeedo.com/amazing-3d-chalk-art
10/23/08
Beautiful and inspiring photo essays - Edited and published by Dirck Halstead, LIFE magazine's youngest combat photographer to date (he covered the Guatemalan Civil War at age 17), the Digital Journalist is a compilation of fascinating and informative articles and accompanying photo galleries on issues that have made national and international headlines. Well worth perusing.
10/15/08
Save energy one search at a time - Because a black screen requires a monitor to use less power to display images compared to a white screen, Blackle, the black version of the Google search engine, was created to enable users to save energy with each search. The extent of the potential energy savings is still under debate - Blackle's creators, Heap Media, credit a blog predicting an energy savings of 750 Megawatt hours a year: http://ecoiron.blogspot.com/2007/01/black-google-would-save-3000-megawatts.html. There are also limitations (e.g. it has been found to have zero effect on LCD screens), and user cost may be incurred in terms of the readibility of black web pages (though some may find that staring at a black screen is actually easier on the eyes), but it's an innovative and thought-provoking development and a reminder that there are little things we can do everyday that can add up to contribute to saving energy.
10/9/08
Imaginative American Cuisine in NYC's Gramercy/Flatiron - My goodness! If I wore hats I'd definitely have tipped one off to Michael Anthony, the chef at Gramercy Tavern. He is my new hero. This place is by no means easy on the wallet, but definitely well worth it. The most solid meal I've had in a long time. No wonder this charming establishment has consistently received high marks in almost every food category! The service is thorough and efficient without being pretentious, the ambiance/decor is classical and inviting (think elegant and rustic, kind of Chez-Panisse-y), and the flavors incorporated into their dishes are adventurous, but not strangely so.

We tried the seasonal autumn tasting menu (a mixture of seafood and game) and the vegetable tasting menu (which listed some very delicious pastas). Everything was cooked to perfection and the subtle, yet complex flavors of each seasonal and vegetable entree in the serving sequence gracefully complimented one another.

The pastry chef should get brownie points for creativity - among the desserts we tried was a grape crisp, a refreshing deviation from the usual berry and apple crisp. The petite fours and chocolates they doled out in the end were a lovely touch, as were the individually wrapped coffee cakes that accompanied the bill.

The only criticism I have is that one can't order dishes from the tavern menu while dining in the dining room. Was eyeing the meatball stuffed with fontina cheese. Next time!
9/23/08
Travel back in time just because - Ever wonder what you'd look like with a 70s era hairdo and outfit? Simply upload your photo (front shots work best), and this application inserts it into a black-and-white yearbook picture from an era of choice (50s-->present). It's fun (and funny).
9/15/08
Holy smokes, their jerky is amazing! - Whether or not you're a jerky junky, the jerky from Mahogany Smoked Meats is worth a try. They smoke theirs using 300-year-old mountain mahogany logs, and the result is flavorful jerky with a unique taste. Very good are their teriyaki and habanero flavors. If you're not into beef, they sell other types of jerky (e.g. turkey, buffalo, fish, etc.) and multiple forms of pork (e.g. bacon, ham, chops). Get their products at their Bishop, California shop (small town on the way from Yosemite to Death Valley), or order it online. Service is top-notch, and delivery is quick!
8/16/08
If you like pancakes, you should try theirs - I am not really into pancakes, but I felt kind of silly being at a place called The Original Pancake House and not ordering them. My decision to veer off the French toast path was a good one!

They use only the freshest ingredients and pancake recipes that have been perfected for three generations to produce a wide variety of fluffy and flavorful pancakes. Favorites include their signature apple pancake (smothered with thinly sliced sauteed apples baked in cinnamon sugar), fresh fruit crepes, and blueberry pancakes. They also offer different types of ethnic pancakes, and serve traditional brunch fare.

I only found this place a month ago and have shamelessly frequented it three weekends out of the last four. There are over one hundred franchises from coast to coast, and I am super excited to try some of their other locations! Oh, and their French toast is not bad also. =)
8/16/08
Literary magazine that explores stories and art, fiction and film - Behind every good movie is a good story. A quarterly magazine devoted to publishing the best new short fiction and one-act plays, Zoetrope: All-Story, which was started by Francis Ford Coppola, is a fun and refreshing read.

The recipient of almost every major story award, the magazine seeks to supplement the sensibilities of motion picture studios by emphasizing the importance of devoting resources to cultivating quality literary work. The result is a very neat smorgasbord of short stories that illustrate the intersection between art, film, and fiction, and teach us about life and everyday people, places, and things.

Each edition contains new stories centered around a particular theme, each story carefully selected from a pool of submittals from notable and promising authors. Rounding out each edition is a classic reprint (a published short story that inspired a great film) to illustrate the relationship between the two art forms. This month, the Love Issue (Spring 2003) has been re-released. It contains the classic reprint of a novella, Intersection, by Liu Yi-Chang, which inspired the internationally acclaimed film In The Mood for Love (2000) by director Wong Kar Wai.

Also peppered throughout each edition are illustrations, designs, and photographs by a chosen contemporary artist.

Whether or not you choose to subscribe to the magazine or to purchase piecemeal editions, you can read some of the published stories online by clicking on their Back Issues link.
Sfexplorecard.com
7/21/08
Explore San Francisco without burning a hole in your wallet - SF Explore was set up to help people have fun in San Francisco while getting the most bang for their buck. Purchase an SF Explore card, which is valid until the end of a given year (right now, their summer special is $25 versus $50 regularly). Present your card to participating merchants when making your purchase to redeem deals, which range from free appetizers at restaurants to percentage discounts on art at galleries to free cover at aquariums, and more.

It is also neat forum where you can share information with users about participating merchants and get information on places to eat, play, and live in San Francisco, all in one place. The number of users is growing quickly, and merchants are being added on a weekly basis, so check this out for new updates and save!
7/17/08
Scrumptious pastry shop in manhattan's east village - Veniero’s is a nice place to visit anytime of the day, any day, whether it’s for a snack, after dinner dessert, or if you’re on a date. I’ve even come here for lunch (and no, they don’t serve lunch food here).

Steeped in tradition, it’s been around since 1894 and has been owned by the same family since their doors first opened. It has a very charming interior, with pictures of Frank Sinatra on the walls, aged tile gracing the floors, and tiny cozy tables all around.

The line usually runs out the door and around the corner, especially on weekends, so the service is polite at best (they are good, though, in that they will give you as little or as much as you want, meaning they’ll slice you a tiny sliver of cake, or a big one, depending on your mood). Try going on a weekday afternoon, or right before it closes (on my lucky days I get to try different things for free). Yay.

Here you will find just about any kind of Italian dessert imaginable, at fairly reasonable prices. I’m a sucker for dessert, but I tend to shy away from desserts that are too sweet because I think it detracts from the flavor (and this happens more often than not). They make everything just right. There aren’t that many places where I’ll say that I’ll eat anything�this is one of those places. Everything, from the cookies to the fresh fruit tarts to the cheesecakes to the cannolis, is so good here.

I love their ricotta cheesecake (with a nice hint of lemon, dare I say it is so light I think it can be considered almost healthy�). Best ever. Also good are their custard-filled napoleans, fresh berry tarts, strawberry shortcake, and cannolis. Their mini desserts are also a pretty good value (they sell by the pound and you can get a bunch of different treats for the price of one normal dessert at other places).

The only negative thing I have to say about Veniero’s is that it has left my tastebuds imprinted with what the perfect cannoli tastes like - the filling is of just the right amount of sweetness and the crust is light and crisp. I've not been able to find an equivalent elsewhere, and have been searching for quite some time. =)
7/15/08
Unique t-shirts by people just like you - Threadless isn’t just your typical custom graphics clothing company – its concept is much broader than that in that it is built on user interaction: users purchase, design, and vote on designs. If you have an idea, you download the template, submit your design, users vote on it, and if it gets enough votes, your design is chosen for production and boom, you get $2000 (and your name goes on the clothing label).

The result is some funny, clever, and definitely quirky designs that you won’t find elsewhere. They sell t-shirts (for adults and kids), and onesie's and hoodsie's (for kids under 2 years old) of good quality, the prints last a long time, and it’s a nice way to support aspiring artists. Their prices have gone up a bit over the years, but occasionally they have $10 t-shirt sales. All their designs are limited edition, so if a design you like is sold out, it’s probably gone for good unless you can get a bunch of other people to ask for it to be reprinted too.

My favorite designs? I hope they reprint this someday, but one is a design which says “If you can read this, make me a sandwich.”

Another is Cookie Loves Milk: http://www.threadless.com/product/342/Cookie_Loves_Milk#zoom

Oh, and shipments come neatly folded with stickers. Who doesn’t like stickers? Just plain adorable.
7/8/08
Easy and fun recipes for all occasions - This simple and navigable site contains hundreds of thousands of searchable recipes submitted by home cooks (totally doable, even for the kitchen-challenged). You can even search for recipes using specific ingredients if you have random leftover ingredients that you would like to use up.

Very cool is the option of scaling the original recipe yield for the number of servings. They even have a nutritional breakdown for each recipe, a section on similar recipes, downloadable cookbooks (their summer picnic cookbook is pretty good), and an entire section on budget-friendly recipes. I’m a fan of their shopping list feature, where you can save recipes in your recipe box and the site creates a shopping list organized by category (e.g. produce, meat, dairy, etc.). How convenient.

The best part about this site is that the recipes are reviewed and rated by users, and a sizable proportion of them have creative modification suggestions (to make the end result tastier, healthier, or even better, both!).

I didn't even like lemon bars until I tried these (check out the modification suggested by the second reviewer - it's best with freshly squeezed lemon juice): http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Bake-Sale-Lemon-Bars/Detail.aspx
6/30/08
Good Middle Eastern Comfort Food in San Francisco's Noe Valley - I wasn't even hungry when I got into the cab to go to Fattoush, but by the time we arrived, the driver had talked up their hummus and baklava so much that I was nearly starving!

Modestly decorated inside with a lovely dining patio in the back, Fattoush makes for a pleasant casual dining experience.

For dinner, they offer standard Middle Eastern comfort fare, and all dishes were served nearly simultaneously and piping hot. The servings are a bit on the larger side so if you get a bunch of appetizers sharing a main dish between two people works well.

Highlights included the hummus (it had just the right amount of lemon juice and olive oil), khyar b'laban (yogurt cucumber salad with garlic and fresh dill), and mansaf (tender chunks of chicken cooked in this amazing yogurt sauce served atop a mound of fluffy rice, and sprinkled with roasted almond slivers...there was an abundance of yogurt sauce, so a few of us put it on most anything and everything. =) The falafel tabsi (falafel topped with a mild curry sauce with eggplant, onion, tomatoes, garlic, and lime) was a bit bland, but if you ask for some cucumber yogurt and mix it into the sauce, it makes for a pretty tasty dish.

Service was a bit slow and borderline abrupt, but when they weren't taking orders or setting down dishes, the staff was very friendly and attentive.

I'll definitely be back at some point to check out their brunch. Their corn flake french toast caught my eye...
6/30/08
Improved travel site for cheap airfare/vacation/car rental/cruise deals - Started by the founders of Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity a few years ago, the ever-evolving Kayak is still the most efficient, comprehensive, and user-friendly travel site I've come across. It scours a ton of travel sites to deliver optimal combinations of itineraries and low prices in an easy-to-use display. Better yet, it sends you directly to the source, including low-cost carriers such as JetBlue and Virgin America (I was so excited when they added these!), to make your purchase. Booking directly with the travel provider allows you to bypass service fees typically charged by other travel sites and take advantage of benefits such as upgrades and bonus miles. One can filter to narrow results by number of stops, airline, airline alliances, takeoff/landing times, flight quality, aircraft type, layover/flight duration, sites searched, and price. Among its many useful features are buzz (shows the cheapest deals that other Kayak users uncovered in their searches) and fare alert (email notification when a trip route of interest meets or beats your specified price).
6/25/08
Best prices on tennis apparel and equipment - I stumbled upon this site when I was looking for a pair of tennis shoes that had just come out. Lots of places sold them at retail value, but not Midwest sports. They had them listed on sale!

So now, when I'm looking for tennis anything - equipment, apparel, accessories, etc. - this is my go-to site. They offer current and older items (at marked down prices) from a wide variety of brands. They even have a 115% price guarantee, whereby they will match any advertised price by authorized retail dealers for in-stock items, plus 15% of the difference. Shipping is prompt (with order tracking) and their customer service is excellent.
6/24/08
Charming american restaurant in manhattan's greenwich village - I'm usually not a fan of low ceilings, but somehow Blue Hill, with their minimalistic decor, non-boring dark brown walls, and soft (but not dim) lighting made it work. It is a great place to have a cozy grown-up meal without the typical off-putting service. Perfect for a date. Everything was well-paced and our waitress graciously answered every question we asked, even the silly ones. Even the mini flashlights they provided for those who needed extra help to read the menu was a nice touch.

The food was scrumptious, prepared with organic ingredients from their sustainable farm in upstate New York. The farm-to-table freshness was apparent in every dish we ordered. Highlights included the morning farm egg (who would've thought that a poached egg could taste so good? It was seriously the best egg I've ever had), long island fluke, and chicken breast (very tender and succulent). Even the table bread was excellent. The crust was delicate and the crumb dissolves in your mouth. Pair it with the homemade sweet butter and you will be in for a treat.

As for dessert, the consistency of their chocolate bread pudding was a bit too cake-like for my taste, but the accompanying banana gelato, crisp chocolate outer layer, and molten chocolate center more than made up for it.

The meal was finished off with tiny rosemary meringues and lemon and chocolate center filled biscuits. How cute.

Next time...a trip to the Pocantico Hills where all the magic begins...
6/23/08
Heavenly brunch spot in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood - I love love brunch, so much so that I could eat brunch food all day long and not get bored of it.

Tucked away on the north east corner of Washington Square Park is a teeny spot of pure heaven - Mama's. It is my favorite brunch place in all of San Francisco. With large windows overlooking the park and soft Provencal decorations, Mama's is pleasing to the eye...and to the tastebuds.

If you like french toast, you must try theirs! They make every kind of french toast imaginable to man! Well not really...BUT they have 6 different kinds (not bad huh?), all made with freshly baked bread (for example, the banana nut french toast isn't just bread with bananas and nuts sprinkled on top, it's made with banana nut bread). On some days, they even offer a french toast sampler, which has three different kinds of french toast goodness. Having tried them all, my favorites are the brioche, swedish cinnamon, fat-free apple yogurt cinnamon, and apple pan dore...oh wait that's almost all of them...oops! They are even better when topped with a large spoonful of fresh berries - perfect!

Mama's also make really fluffy omelettes, with fresh ingredients mixed in. The northern Italian and California omelettes are excellent. Very tasty and light, with nicely seasoned and part-crispy home fries and toast on the side (which you can slather their homemade jam on - it is seriously orgasmic. I even put it on my french toast).

If you think you may have extra room, try one of their crumb cakes - the blueberry, apple, and carrot ones are really good!

For the non-breakfast inclined, Mama's offers a good variety of sandwiches and salads between 11 and 3 (that's when they close). Their Monte Cristo sandwich (ham, turkey, swiss sandwich dipped in egg batter french-toast style, grilled, and served with jam), is amazing.

The food comes shortly after you order, and the wait staff is very kind and always does a great job keeping the water glasses full.

A few things I don't like about the place:

1. They don't take credit cards (yeah, boo), so please remember to bring cash. And the little plants on the table aren't just for decoration - that's where you leave the tip.

2. The food is so good that you will wish they had a nap room in the back to help you recover from your impending food coma. They don't.

3. Sure, the lines are long (usually an hour wait) but what good breakfast joint doesn't? Get there early or get there late; if you have to come during peak time, try to pick a weird time, like 10:41 or something. Sometimes the line gets significantly longer at the hour and half past hour marks.

If you're in line and feeling the hunger pangs, there's a very nondescript bakery across the street called Liguria (it often looks like there is no activity going on in there). They make the best pizza foccacia bread ever (they often sell out by noon though). And, there are plenty of coffee places nearby.

Plus, you never know who you might run into while waiting at Mama's. We once befriended Rob Schneider there and had a whole conversation about hats and burritos!
6/22/08
Cozy diner-like restaurant with a huge personality in San Francisco's Nob Hill neighborhood - There are a ton of very good and decently priced restaurants in San Francisco, but it's been awhile since I've tried a restaurant and thought, "I can't wait to come back again!" Canteen is one of those restaurants.

Do a 360 degree spin on one of the counter stools and you will find a simple, yet elegant interior - part library, part retro diner. A neon arrow along the back wall points to the open kitchen, where, if you look closely, you can see Chef Leary and his staff work their magic. It truly makes for a very intimate (and entertaining) dining experience.

Not only is the setting inviting and creative, but the food is amazingly fresh, complex, and inventive. It is very apparent that a lot of thought is put into the dinner menu; you won't find your typical run-of-the-mill combinations here. It's tough to make recommendations since the menu changes every week, but I was impressed with the parmesan apricot almond amuse bouche, pommes vonnasienne (kind of like a potato pancake) with beets and horseradish sauce, and white sea bass with spring vegetables and curry. Sometimes curry can weigh a dish down, or potatoes can make a dish overly starchy, but the ingredients and sauces in both entrees were light and complimentary, and the dishes brimming with flavor.

For dessert, I would highly recommend the signature vanilla souffle - it was life-changing! Also good was the cherry clafoutis, a baked custard-like treat infused with fresh cherries.

The informative and attentive wait staff was every bit as excellent as the food. Even with the timed seating (they occur at 6:00, 7:30, and 9:15), dinner did not feel rushed. The dishes were brought out at just the right time, leaving more than enough time to let each dish sink in.

I enjoyed my dinner so much that I just had to give their brunch a go. I thoroughly enjoyed the blueberry french toast with sweet cream cheese (imagine even-textured slices of french toast, soaked part-way in blueberry juice). The eggs benedict with potatoes was also good (their hollandaise was so smooth and the potatoes were seasoned really well).

Canteen is truly a culinary gem. Now, if only I could find time to have lunch there...
Everydayfoodmag.com
6/18/08
Healthy no-fuss recipes for everyday cooking - Everyday Food is a PBS show dedicated to sharing simple and tasty easy-to-make recipes for everyday cooking. The series grew out of Everyday Food magazine, which features recipes that take 30 minutes or less to prepare using widely available supermarket ingredients, the point being so one can spend less time in the kitchen and more time with family and/or other things. The site, sponsored by Martha Stewart, contains video clips and a ton of easy-to-follow recipes from the magazine.

Check out the Dinner Tonight blog, updated daily by the magazine's editors, for more ideas:
http://blogs1.marthastewart.com/dinnertonight/

Audrey Has Earned 193 Votes

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