Dim Sum, Pizza & a Party Cure the Winter Blues

If you live in the Northeast, you know how difficult this winter has been.  Last winter was pretty cold and snowy too so I think having two in a row has proved particularly trying for us.  For me, working from home adds to the doldrums that have set in.  But I am not one to complain (usually) and generally try to find something positive. 

I have been religious about going to the gym every morning because it gets me out of the house at least once.  I have been getting together with friends whenever possible, skiing whenever feasible, and making weekend plans to avoid being cooped up in the house too much.  It’s really not that hard with all the friends and family I have nearby.  This past weekend I made plans with some friends from Lancaster, PA to take a Dim Sum cooking class in Brooklyn and then just spend the day in the city doing whatever came to mind.  I also had a party in the evening that I was invited to and so planned to stay overnight for ease.

I started my day on an early morning train into Penn Station and the train ride alone invigorated me despite the cold temperature outside.  I switched to the subway and took the E train to my hotel to check in and collect my friends.  After a quick breakfast, we headed to the Brooklyn Brainery in Prospect Heights for our Dim Sum class.  It’s located in a neat little neighborhood of Brooklyn near Grand Army Plaza among old brownstones and local businesses.  

The Brainery is a store front that looks like a classroom inside with tables and chairs and a kitchen at the back.  There were about 15 students on this particular morning and our instructor was Diana Kuan, author of “The Chinese Takeout Cookbook”.  We learned much and had fun making Steamed Pork Buns filled with rich roasted pork belly, Shumai filled with ground port and shrimp, and Chinese Broccoli in Oyster Sauce.  We learned about the different sauces and ingredients used in Chinese cooking as well as when to use each one.  I finally know the difference between regular and dark soy sauce.  The best part of course, was that we got to eat what we cooked and it was delicious.

My first Shumai
Our group’s Shumai in the Steamer
Chinese Broccoli w/ Oyster Sauce
Pork Buns ready to steam










After class was over, I had planned to get together with friends who live in the area.  If you’re a regular reader, you know that I know people everywhere I go.  So we walked across the farmer’s market in Grand Army Plaza and made our way to their house.  The next two hours were spent sharing stories over some awesome cheese and a great bottle of Burgundy at the kitchen counter, at which point we decided it was time for some pizza and so we all headed off to Franny’s on Flatbush Ave.


Pork Cheek & Beef Tongue on Toast
Franny’s makes the kind of pizza you find in Italy; not the greasy, cheesy, thick crust pies you find on every street corner in New York City (my friend D calls those NY pizza).  Luckily real pizza can be found in more places today than ever before at restaurants like Roberta’s, Pizza Fresca, Motorino, and others, but Franny’s is one of my favorites.  We ordered a bottle of Conti, two pizzas, some salumi and a pork cheek & beef tongue terrine as suggested by D.  Everything was delicious but that terrine, which was served warm, was exceptionally good and if you ever find yourself at Franny’s it is a must order.  We ended our meal with a single cannoli because they looked too good not to at least try one and it did not disappoint. Our stomachs filled and satisfied, we headed back towards our hotel in Manhattan.

Holy Cannoli

We ended the evening at a friend’s 40th birthday party in the presidential suite of a hotel in the Meatpacking District.  Initially intending to only stop in for a little bit, we ended up having a lot of fun and staying till our feet got tired.


Presidential Suite at Dream Downtown

On my train ride home the next morning, I felt a twinge of guilt for shirking my responsibilities at home, but it was gone as quickly as it came because I knew I had made the right decision to escape for just one day to go out and have a little fun during this long winter season.  It would carry me till the thawing of Spring.

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