It’s My Birthday. Have a Cigar

A very heartfelt “THANK YOU” to everyone who left birthday wishes on Facebook, twitter, and via email! I loved hearing from all of you, and your comments and good wishes made this birthday one of the best ever.  So thanks, everyone, for making my day that much brighter!  😀

[Okay, so maybe mine look more like sausages than cigars. . . but they still tasted great!]

My, it has been a while since I posted a recipe on this site! And where the heck have I been for the past week or so, you ask?  Imagine this scene:

Evening.  Ricki is at home, sitting in front of the computer in her PJs, a cup of steaming herbal tea by her side. She is focused on her computer screen, when the phone rings.  She grabs the receiver.  

Ricki [slightly distracted by the blog she’s reading]: Hello?

Babe: Hey.

Ricki Hey! What’s up?

Babe: Okay, so here’s the story: my job is sending me to New York for 2 days, and I have a free hotel room to share.  It happens to fall on your birthday. Are you interested in meeting me there?  We could have dinner, see a couple of plays, you’d have the daytime to yourself. . . what do you think?  [Pause]. Ric?  Are you still there?

Ricki [hyperventilating]: ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? Are you–KIDDING. ME–?? Whoo hoo! Whoopee! Yahoo!  Yayyyy!  New York!  New York! NYC!! The Big Apple! The City of Light!  The—

Babe: So do I take that as a “yes”?

And that, dear readers, is how I ended up spending my birthday last week in New York City, at this hotel. . . for free. (Well, okay, the airfare and meals weren’t free, but let’s not nitpick).

It had been quite a while since I last visited NYC, and I was just as enchanted this time round. Ah, New York, city of Broadway and global business, offering up a panoply of cultures and cuisines from at least fifty countries in a two-block span.

New York, where everyone–whether sporting runners or stilettoes–walks pretty much everywhere (apparently, the average New Yorker walks 5 miles a day).  Where taxis will slow down, ask where you’re going, assess the income potential and then take off again if it’s not worth their economic while.

New York, where sleepy eyed denizens shuffle along the early morning streets with their dogs on plaid leather leashes, or sporting doggie booties, or doggie Burberrys for their morning walk, stooping and scooping as the canines do their business wherever they can, which usually means right on the concrete sidewalks (no green to be found for blocks at a time); where locals are so friendly that they’ll not only answer your touristy questions, but will also walk two blocks out of their way to lead you to your destination, advising you as you go that it’s pronounced “HOW-ston,” not “HEW-ston” so you won’t distinguish yourself as a redneck among the locals.

New York, where every attire you can think of graces the crowded streets in a welter of color and texture, highlighted by the current uniform du jour (riding boots, patterned tights, mini skirt or long sweater).  Where celebrities can dine unaccosted at public restaurants with nary a glance from passing citizenry.

New York, where Times Square at midnight shines brighter than the blazing sun of noon; where a (mediocre) agave-sweetened, gluten-free cupcake can sell out at $4.50 a pop; where street buskers draw a crowd in the middle of lunch hour; where the energy is as palpable as a heavy fog as you stroll along Broadway, or Madison Avenue, or 47th Street–or just about anywhere, really.

Yep, that was New York for me this past week.  New York, where I walked more in 1-1/2 days that I probably had in the previous week, where I indulged my inner glutton with abandon and still lost 2 pounds at the end of it.

All that–and being able to meet up with two of my favorite bloggers in less than two days!

Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  First, observe this:

Sorry for the blur (squint really hard and you can almost make it out). . . that’s T.R. Knight and me! (Okay, so I didn’t know who T.R. Knight was before I got him to sign my Playbill and take a photo after Babe and I watched him on Broadway in David Mamet’s A Life in the Theater.  But apparently, he was quite the little heart-throb on Grey’s Anatomy.)

And the co-star of Mamet’s play, here:

[“Make it so!”]

Yes, it’s Jean Luc Picard himself, Captain of the Enterprise–aka Patrick Stewart!  As a die-hard Star Trek fan, I was beyond thrilled to snag an autograph and snap this pic as he exited the theater.  I am such a groupie!

That same evening, my friend Babe and I dined at Agra  in celebration of the day of my birth. During the day, I wandered on my own and managed to trek to the Upper West Side, Columbus Circle and a new Whole Foods; SOHO; the Fashion District (had to check out the Manhattan Mall);  Central Park; along with expeditions along Madison Avenue, Lexington, Park Avenue, and Times Square.  Not bad for 36 hours!

But two high points of the visit, as I mentioned above, were meeting in person with a couple of fellow bloggers.

Lindsay of Happy Herbivore fame and I met up for a vegan breakfast.  Lindsay’s blog is full of approachable fat-free recipes (some of which will appear in her upcoming cookbook).  She’s also one of the best tweeters in twitterdom! We had planned to eat at Teany’s, but due to a scheduling glitch found it closed when we arrived.  No matter: Whole Foods was a fine replacement instead.

After reading Lindsay’s blog for almost 3 years now, I felt as if I were greeting an old friend as we hugged hello.  Our lively chatter was punctuated by giggles and guffaws as we gabbed about blogging (of course!), healthy eating, social media, and moving to exotic locales (hope the packing is going well, Lindsay!).  Before I knew it, we’d spent over 2 hours together and it was time for me to head out.  Lindsay was also kind enough to lead me to BabyCakes (a place I’ve been dying to visit since I first read about them in 2004 or so) and then guided me through the New York subway (a trip I am quite certain I would not have taken without her).  Thanks for your vitality, your openness and your humor, Lindsay!  (And I can’t believe it didn’t occur to me to snap a photo of us together–I am so sorry!).

[Does this photo look familiar?  Then you must also have read Gena’s post. . . thanks for the photo, Gena! 😉 ]

The following day, I was equally delighted to meet up with Gena of Choosing Raw for lunch at Bonobos, one of several raw food establishments in the city.  Although I had been dreaming about a meal at Pure Food and Wine for ages, after examining the menus of both places, I knew that Bonobos was the better choice for me.  And it was: Gena and I began by taking full advantage of the free samples on the counter.  I loved the nori “cigars” (tightly wrapped nori rolls filled with nut or seed pâté, twisted at the ends to resemble cigars) and practically drenched myself downing one too many of the warm coconut chai drinks and incredible raw soups.

For lunch, I enjoyed sushi rolls while Gena feasted on soup and salad.  I’ve been a huge fan of Gena’s blog, Choosing Raw, since she began writing it a few years ago.  And Gena is a true inspiration for many with her engaging, welcoming and articulate approach to gaining and maintaining good health.  Her affability shines through whether she’s posting about raw versus cooked foods, explaining why we shouldn’t use labels to describe our eating habits, considering whether agave nectar is friend or foe, or sharing some of her incredible recipes (I mean, who hasn’t tried Gena’s chocomole or banana soft serve?) With a few years of blog reading, comments, and emails behind us, we dove right in and started chattering like two teenagers, on topics as diverse as blogging (of course!), conferences, veganism, twitter, relationships, and our two cities. Before we knew it, her lunch hour was over and she had to return to work. Thanks so much, Gena, for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet up!

And while it was over all too quickly, I couldn’t have had a better birthday gift than my visit to the Big Apple. The only downside was that the HH couldn’t be there with me (darned job!), but we’ll be celebrating together here at home.

So long, New York, and thanks for the memories. . . . I won’t wait so long to return next time.

I’m linking this up to Amy’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays event–go check out all the other healthier options! 🙂

Last Year at this Time: Easy Breakfast “Sausage” Patties and Biscuits with Smoky Almond Gravy

Two Years Ago: Date Pasta (can be made gluten free)

© 2010 Ricki Heller

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  1. What a fun trip! And the nori rolls look delicious. I’ll definitely have to try those soon. I haven’t used my sushi mat in ages!

  2. This sounds like the perfect birthday trip! I love NYC, and I would go back in a flash if I could. Happy belated birthday, Ricki!

  3. ooh, happy birthday ricki!!! looks like you had a fabulous trip to nyc 🙂 so many exciting meet-ups!

  4. Happy belated, Ricki! A beautiful weekend for beautiful you! xo

  5. What a fun birthday trip, Ricki! New York is my favorite US city to visit, hands down. Awesome that you got to meet Gena and Lindsay. Ahh and Patrick Stuart, so cool!

  6. Happy Belated Birthday! That sounds like such a fun trip, and I can imagine how great it was to meet Lindsay and Gena!

  7. Ricki, somehow you make us feel like we were all right there along with you! What a perfect depiction of NYC! I love the imagery that your painted for us! What an amazing weekend that you had! I am so happy for you-great friends, wonderful food, celebrity photos (I was a huge fan of TR Knight before he left Grey’s), blogging connections. What a birthday! I am so glad that it was so special for you!

    • Kim, so glad you felt that way! It was really a great couple of days. I didn’t know TR Knight at all, but I knew that he was famous, and that was enough for pop-culture vulture that I am!

  8. It sounds like you had a fabulous birthday! I am glad you had so much fun. I used to go to NYC every once in a while when I was still living in NJ. I wish I was still there now so I could check out some of the vegan places!

  9. Aww what an awesome birthday trip!!! And a very huge Happy Birthday!!!

  10. What a treat for your birthday! Would love to see NYC and all the cool bloggers out there, and those cigars look amazing! Happy Birthday Ricki!

    • I wish I’d had more time to figure out who else was there. . . I know I missed so many people! But it was quite the treat, yes. And glad you like the cigars!

  11. What a great trip. I am so jealous you got a pic of Patrick Stewart. Thanks for sharing that one. 😉

    Happy Belated Birthday sounds like you had a wonderful weekend in NYC.


  12. Happy Belated Birthday!! Sounds like you had a wonderful weekend!

  13. Awesome NYC post Ricki – I’ve been waiting for this. I adore all things NYC so I loved reading your post – well put! I’m so glad you had such a great weekend!

  14. Happy belated birthday! Those pictures are so cute. Glad you had so much fun!

  15. Genius, Ricki! I love that you recreated the cigar, and will try them this weekend!

    It was such a joy to meet you after all this time. I hope it’s the first of many lunches 🙂

  16. Happy Belated Birthday, Ricki! So glad you had a fun time!

  17. I missed your birthday?!? Oops! Happy belated birthday! Your trip sounds wonderful!

  18. Belated Happy Birthday. The cigars look very lovely….

  19. Happy belated birthday! Sounds like a fabulous trip 🙂

  20. What a lovely, wonderful birthday! So glad you had such a great time. Yay for friends and unexpected invitations!

  21. Happy birthday ricki – sounds like an amazing trip and even better that you have extra celebrations with the HH to look forward to. The cigars look great too – what interesting food you found in New York

    • I think all birthdays should be celebrated for at least a month, don’t you? 😉 Thanks, Johanna! And NYC was a “restricted dieter”‘s dream!

  22. Hi Ricki,

    oh my… you made me laugh so much with your description of your HH phone call! I just love reading you, your humor is contagious! :))
    Happy Birthday!! (Sorry for being late) my best wishes to you and all in your household.
    These cigars… yummy! I bet they were terrific. A few months ago I attended a picnic with vegan and raw food friends, and I made up something very similar, used soaked raw almonds, and a few drops of brown rice vinegar. Added some shredded veggies, and the result was almost-raw-almond-veggie-sushi :)).
    It was a hit. Even me (my 1st times in the kitchen were always a disaster), I got very surprised how these ingredients blended up so well.

    See you in your next post!
    My best,

    • Thanks so much, Susana! Your pate sounds great, too. Is the recipe posted somewhere? I (and my readers, I’m sure) would love to see it! 🙂

  23. Ricki, you sure know how to make the most of a short trip to NYC. It sounds like a fabulous weekend/birthday/adventure.
    And I just have to add, LIBRA POWER!

  24. Woweeee, Ricki!! What an awesome BD! Somehow those spur of the moment awesome trips are even better. 🙂

    So happy for you and love the celebrity factor, too. 🙂


  25. Aw, happy very belated birthday, Ricki! It really is a shame that we didn’t get to meet up this time around, but there will be other opportunities at some point, I’m sure. 🙂

  26. I’m givin’er all she’s got, cap’n! 😀

    Aww, you look so happy with… *re-reads the post* T.R Knight! (I didn’t know who he was either, but I do live under a rock)

    I’m so glad you had such an awesome, epic birthday! 😀


  1. […] at its worst but left-over recycling at its best. And anyway, everyone seems to be at it with nori rolls these […]

  2. […] Bonobos. When Ricki visited NYC, she was so impressed with Bonobos raw nori cigars that she created a version of them over at her blog, Diet, Dessert & Dogs. Today, I offer you mine, made with a super simple (and […]

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