Restrictions in Solitude

Social interaction is my personal battery while solitude is the outlet I recharge it with

I am and have for the most part always been an outgoing social being; I thrive and extract most of my inspiration and joie de vivre through the company of those I cherish; and whenever I feel a brooding state of mind coming on, I know it’s time to get off the computer and out of the house

However, like many people I need alone time every day; there are times I prefer to be by myself- most notably in the mornings and right before going to sleep. I have always been an early riser, a habit seemingly rare amongst those I keep company with which allows me to calmly ease into my day, to absorb the silence of the morning and invest it’s tranquility into the coming hours.

Despite not having a job or school to tend to; I have been immensely stressed out as of late between the moving/unpacking transition into my new home, tending to several commitments on behalf of my alma mater, job-searching/networking/scheduling appointments, finding time to write/read/grocery-shop/reply to e-mails, I almost feel asphyxiated by my exponentially lengthening to-do list. For goodness sake, I haven’t even had the time to view the new collections from NEW YORK FASHION WEEK!

However, no matter how busy I get, eating well is always a top priority…even if I am home by my lonesome:

Forgive the blur (and boxes in the background); a simple arugula frisee salad with heirloom tomatoes, basil, balsamic, truffle oil, and sea salt

And don’t you adore the the basil plant? I was feeling quite domestic and in need of a fragrant edible plant to add a little life into my new kitchen

And in the spirit of getting creative with the few ingredients in my kitchen- a hummus pizza comprised of:

-1 Trader Joe’s whole wheat Middle Eastern flatbread

-TJ Spicy hummus topped with fresh thyme

-TJ chili sauce

-lemon-marinated grilled chicken

-artichokes

-heirloom cherry tomatoes

-grana parmigiano, chili flakes, black pepper, basil

Put in the toaster oven for 8 minutes at 425 F; and absolutely delicious. If there is five things you will always find in my fridge: Herbs (currently with thyme, basil, mint, italian parsley), kefir, 2% greek yoghurt, Upper Crust Bread double chocolate cake, and gourmet mustard.

***

Then on Wednesday, Nora and I headed over to the alphabet district for her second inking- a self designed panther head; and since it was around time for an early dinner by the time she finished, I called my good friend Alia and she suggested we meet at Java Vivace, a quaint cafe and creperie on the corner of NW 23rd and Pettygrove

Naturally, a crepe was in order (and Nora’s first time trying savory crepes):

Quite a generous portion, non? Buckwheat crepe filled with mushrooms, tomatoes, mozzarella, spinach, and chicken

Hearty and satiating (especially with the introduction of my essential dining companion, Sir Sriracha), but a contrast to most crepes in my dining history. For one, the crepe itself was chewy and doughy in texture as opposed to the tissue-thin crunch I am used to. The fillings were all fresh and generous in quantity, but I admit I did find it a tad bland pre-sriracha, and it’s not because I have fried my tastebuds off from over-seasoning/stimulation, it just needed a little pizzazz to wake up the ingredients

Java Vivace on Urbanspoon

Later in the evening, Nazneen and Yurop came over to my humble abode for a hang out sesh involving the three M’s: Macbooks, Moscato, and Margherita (pizza)

And it was also an opportunity for Naz and I to figure out how to use my new entirely-too-high-tech for me oven:

And success…in the form of a Trader Joe’s frozen Margherita Pizza, topped with my personal touch of basil leaves

Cool, now with the combination of high tech appliances, the boxes of kitchenware/utensils my mother donated to me, and a spacious dining area I am officially inspired to start throwing classy dinner soirees…where I actually cook though, despite the fact that Trader Joes makes an economical and flavorful frozen pie.

In continuation of the Italian trend (and in accordance with Nora’s craving for good Italian food), Thursday night was a jaunt over to A Cena, a warm and atmospheric neighbourhood restaurant on SE 13th in Sellwood

After being wholeheartedly welcomed by the very hospitable waitstaff, we decided to start with a shared Caprese as we mulled over the rest of the enticing menu

Absolutely delightful! The mozzarella was freshly pulled, stretchy and cognizant of the light basil olive oil- and the heirloom tomatoes accented with nothing more than a tinge of sea salt and basil did not desire anything more considering how robust in flavour they already were

And of course, a bread basket was brought over to soak up the remainder of the basil oil:

Freshly baked breadsticks and chewy chunks of Focaccia

As for the main course, I chose to go with the Saltimboca, which ironic to my teasing of Yurop’s main dish at Paragon the other day was composed of chicken cutlets, rainbow carrots, roasted new potatoes, and a sauce fragrant of sage and featuring a whole lotta garlic:

I am pretty sure Yurop would have approved of these succulent cutlets; the carrots and potatoes were wonderful in taste and texture; in other words, I had no problem polishing off this plate

Nora, on the other hand decided to try the La Ratte potato gnocchi with pine nuts, grana padano, and basil pesto:

I’ve never been a fan of the doughy pillows that are gnocchi, but these were fabulous; tasted in fact just like the pesto gnocchi we had at our neighbourhood trattoria in Liguria a couple of years back

Post-entree, Nora (successfully) attempted to entice me into a little dolce; contrary to myself Nora is NOT a frozen yogurt fan in the slightest, but gelato, that’s a whole other story.

Call me strange, but I always thought of gelato as possessing an ‘eggy’ taste, which might be partially psychological due to my mother’s proclamation in my childhood of some she was eating in Florence as tasting eggy

However, once the dessert menu came, gelato sounded like the perfect meal-cap; and it was between three enticing flavours: vanilla bean, sea salt caramel, and Sicilian pistachio

Since neither of us were looking for anything gargantuan in portion, we decided to split the sea salt caramel just to appease our lingering sweet teeth (and for Nora to put to rest my gelatic stereotypes):

Exquisite. Have you ever had sea salt caramel? It is quite incredible what a dash of this mineral can do to enhance a dessert; I know our beloved pie-purveyor, Pizzeria Picco back in Marin does it perfectly with their famous Straus soft serve ice cream topped with olive oil and sea salt.

Such a wonderful way to conclude a light yet sumptious supper! The service at A Cena is impeccable and personal, the food comes out fast and fresh, and everything is prepared with care and it shows. I’ll definitely be back!

a Cena Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Any relatively quick, creative and balanced lunch ideas?

Crepes: Sweet or savory?

Have you ever thrown a dinner party? Dish with me your secrets; I’m thinking of having one with my nears and dears sometime in the coming future.

20 thoughts on “Restrictions in Solitude

  1. Your posts really bring a smile to my face :-)…and always leave me drooling! Firstly I’m SO glad u chose the sea salt caramel gelato- sounds heavenly! Also I love that solitude/recharge battery metaphor- couldn’t have put it better myself!
    After Suzette, I’m all over savory crepes, especially filled with mushrooms+mozarella!
    I’ve had quite a few dinner parties but the menu of one especially stands out and I imagine u would love the foods too! Will look for the menu and email it to u :)

  2. So when are you inviting me over for dinner again? Artichokes on a pita pizza– you just blew my mind!

    I’m definitely more of a savory kind of girl. The only sweets that I do like are in the form of frozen yogurt or ice cream/ice cream cake. Anddd unfortunately I have never thrown a dinner party, unless having Will over for dinner counts. In that case, I have dinner parties every night!

  3. I’m definitely a sweet crepe (sweet anything, actually) kind of girl. Salted caramel is wonderful. Period. :) And I *completely* understand what you mean about alone time. I need a relatively large amount of solitude, and for me it’s most important to have it in the morning (thankfully, I’m an early riser) and after work. Recharging is necessary! :P

    What a creative hummus pizza! If I’m going for something savory, I like pouring some oil in a pan and then tossing in whatever veg/carb/protein options are around (spice to taste). Otherwise, I’m a huge fan of wacky sandwiches!

  4. The truth is that I am not a crepe person…I do love Nutella but just on a spoon! But I usually can eat a few bites of someone else’s and enjoy them.

    Have you heard of the Obika Mozzarella Bar? I bet you would love it Sara! They are spreading all over the country now and you should definitely seek one out the next time you are in London, NYC, or LA.

    Everything in this post looks divine! Have a lovely weekend.

  5. I used to stress out about dinner parties, but not so much anymore because I figured out a couple things that work well for me. I like to plan dinners around one or two key ingredients, it makes the whole meal simpler and then the sides enhance the flavours of the main instead of competing with them. You seem to already do a good job with combinations- lovely creation on the hummus pizza:) Another thing I like to do is to make the main a week in advance for a taste test and then test the sides as part of my meals over the week itself. Then it’s easy to start prep for the actual menu either the day of or the day in advance!

  6. Crepes – def. want them on the sweet side. And as far as sea salt caramel – love it! Whole Foods makes a sea salt caramel gelato that is all sorts of amazing. In my next life I am coming back as your bff so I can tag along and eat all the amazing food you do!

  7. I’ll be honest, I’ve only ever had a sweet crepe. However, from the looks of your buckwheat crepe above, I think I need to venture to the side of the savory crepe! Yum. I’m a sweet girl, but I do have my savory moments.
    Like you, I love to be social, but need my alone time every day as well. My mornings (now!) are perfect for that. After I blog I workout and get ready for work while listening to music or Today show and just taking my good old time.

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