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Crispy Cheese Quesadilla at Old Town Mexican Cafe

Crispy Cheese Quesadilla By Gail Worley
Photo By Gail

Growing up in Southern California, I developed a passion for authentic (“California style”) Mexican food, because — and I mean this sincerely — even the simplest Mexican cuisine, when done right, is the best comfort food in the Universe. When I moved to New York City, I was horrified by numerous aggressively bad excuses for Mexican food, such as goat cheese quesadillas and enchiladas made with flour tortillas, which, just no. Thirty plus years later, New York City boasts a handful of decent-to-very-good Mexican restaurants, but nothing can compare to anything you can find at the Old Town Mexican Cafe, located in Old Town San Diego. Behold, the Crispy Cheese Quesadilla, one of Old Town’s specialties. This restaurant is famous for making its own flour and corn tortillas, and this unique, open-faced take on the quesadilla begins with a freshly-made, large flour tortilla, which is grilled to a flaky crispness before being smothered with mixed cheeses and served hot to your table with a side of sour cream. Mmmmm, deliciosa!

Old Town Mexican Cafe Menu By Gail

Product Review: Banana Wave Non-Dairy Banana Milk

Banana Wave Cartons By Gail Worley
All Photos By Gail

Do you like Bananas? I sure do. Whether I’m eating a fresh banana (which is considered to be possibly nature’s most perfect food) or enjoying virtually anything banana-flavored, I am all about this versatile, bright yellow fruit. There isn’t much you can’t do with a banana, except get it to give juice — and puréeing it in a blender is not the same thing. If you are a Banana Fan, let me enlighten you to the fact that yes, you can drink a Banana, because Banana Wave Banana Milk is a thing that exists.

Banana Wave Display By Gail Worley

Successfully formulated in 2015 by life-long banana enthusiast Steve Gelerman, Banana Wave is the world’s first non-dairy milk made from whole bananas. As a delicious alternative to dairy, nut, soy, and rice milk, it comes in three flavors: regular banana, strawberry, and chocolate. It’s also the only non-dairy, shelf-stable banana milk in the world. Wow!  Being plant-based, you know its good for you, but it is also kosher, soy-free and gluten-free, with no added high fructose corn syrup, or artificial ingredients of any kind, so it’s something  that you can feel good about giving to your kids.

Banana Wave Label Stats 2

Banana Wave is truly an exciting product, and more than just a tasty beverage to enjoy by the glass. Picture it as a perfect partner for freshly-baked cookies. You can easily substitute it for regular milk on your breakfast cereal, or add a splash to your coffee or tea, and it can be used as an ingredient in recipes calling for milk to accommodate those on restricted diets. While I confess that the Chocolate Banana Wave is my personal favorite, both varieties I tried taste amazing!

Banana Wave Chocolate and Regular Cartons By Gail Worley

Packaged in recyclable, juice-box-style cartons with an attached straw, Banana Wave is perfect for your child’s school lunch box, for a snack at the office, or as a grab-and-go-pick me up. Find out more abbot Banana Wave and get a coupon good toward your purchase by visiting Bananawave.love!

Read More Fabulous Facts About The Banana After The Jump!

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Loaded Potato Pancake at Juniors in Times Square

Loaded Potato Pancake
Photo By Gail

Do you dig comfort foods like loaded potato skins or loaded baked potatoes? If so, then you might be intrigued to know that the Loaded Potato Pancake is a thing that exists. I discovered this decadent fried delight when I visited Junior’s Restaurant in Times Square with my friend Jamie last week for a post-theater snack, and I was blown away by its extreme tastiness. Seriously; I am going to be talking about it for the rest of my life.

If you are not fortunate enough to live near a Junior’s, and you would like to try and emulate the Loaded Potato Pancake at home, here is what I believe you must do.  First, make a huge potato pancake with shredded potato and onions, and fry it until it is golden and crisp. For your potato pancake to taste as insanely delish as Junior’s, the onions will need to get very crispy, so that they add a sweet crunch when you bit into it. Next, top the pancake with a generous portion of cheddar cheese (guideline: there is no such thing as too much cheese), and,  if needed, melt the cheese with a brief pass under a broiler. After that, you can sprinkle the cheesey goodness with crispy bacon, and top with a dollop sour cream and fresh chives. Et Voilà! Enjoy!

Split Rock at The New York Botanical Garden

Split Rock Front
All Photos By Gail

At the end of the Ice Age, the last ice sheet began to melt back from the New York City region about 14,000 years ago, leaving behind a layer of clays, sands and pebbles, as well boulders known a glacial erratics. Glacial Erratics are made up of rock materials not generally found in their immediate surroundings.

Split Rock Right 2

Split Rock Installation View

This large boulder, found in the Native Plant Garden at the New York (Bronx) Botanical Garden — known as Split Rock — is a glacial erratic.

Split Rock Right

Split Rock is composed of Yonkers gneiss, which is different from the local bedrock. The split in this boulder was likely caused by an ancient freezing and thawing cycle thousands of years ago.

Split Rock Detail

Photographed on New Year’s Day, 2020!

Split Rock Left

Restaurant Review: Red Peony Chinese Cuisine

Red Peony Menu Logo
All Photos By Gail

In a city that loves to eat, Chinese is among the most popular cuisines in Manhattan. From Chinatown to Midtown, I frequent a handful of Chinese restaurants that consistently serve my favorite dishes with no disappointments, but there is always room to add one more to that list. Open since late August 2019Red Peony, located in the heart of midtown’s upscale shopping district, is an elegant Chinese restaurant that feels like a secret oasis within the congested urban landscape. Specializing in both Cantonese and Szechuan-style dishes, Red Peony aims to be fully inclusive of every palate; with an extensive menu featuring both familiar favorites and exotic-sounding, visually tempting dishes I’ve not seen on other menus. Judging by the number of Chinese families gathered at its large round tables on the night of my visit, Red Peony offers a truly authentic dining experience.

Downstairs Dining Room

The peony is the unofficial Chinese National Flower. It stands as a symbol of spring and female beauty, and it also represents richness, honor and high social class. A Red Peony specifically represents life and celebration, and you will find all of these values reflected in the restaurant’s opulent interior decor. The first floor dining area features the above pictured, tufted seating in vibrant red fabric, flanking ample-sized tables for two. Larger round tables in the center of the room can accommodate families and larger parties, and there is also a second floor, which is ideal for events and special occasions.

Upstairs Dining Room View 2
Second Floor Dining Room With Windows Looking Onto 56th Street

Red Peony Artwork

You’ll see lovely Asian artworks throughout the restaurant, as well as huge, painted red peony blooms adorning the walls at the entrance. The feeling is one of being immersed in an atmosphere of luxury and comfort — but just wait until you taste the food!

Scallion Pancake
Scallion Pancake

My dining companion had already visited Red Peony several times and, while she is an adventurous eater, she suggested we stick to shared favorites on my first visit, so that I could set a baseline for comparing Red Peony’s cuisine to my favorite establishments — a great idea! Who doesn’t love starting out a traditional Chinese meal with a  crispy Scallion Pancake ($5.95)? This one was delivered to our table piping hot, flaky, golden and loaded with fresh scallions.

Scallion Pancake Detail

Here’s a closer look: you can almost taste it with your eyes. So good! This appetizer is served with a sweet and savory sauce on the side for dipping.

Fried Vegetable Dumplings
Pan Fried Vegetable Dumplings

With so many items to choose from, we could not resist also ordering the Pan Fried Vegetable Dumplings ($7.95), with their delectable wrapper that gets nice and crispy from the pan while staying tender and easy to bite into on the top. These plump morsels are stuffed with finely minced carrots, cabbage and onions, and the mild flavor really perked up with just a dash of the sauce left over from our scallion pancake!

Crispy Bacon and Shrimp Roll
Crispy Bacon and Shrimp Roll

One unique appetizer that I will be ordering on my next visit is this mouthwatering Crispy Bacon and Shrimp Roll ($6.95). Doesn’t that look amazing?

Sesame Chicken
Sesame Chicken, With Steamed Broccoli on the Side

Sesame Chicken ($20.95) is one of my favorite main dishes, and I am not fronting when I say that the sesame chicken served at Red Peony is the best I’ve tasted anywhere. Each bite is perfectly tender and juicy white meat chicken, tossed lightly in flour before being quick-fried to a non-greasy presentation, with a sauce that’s not-too sweet, and a flavorful dusting of toasted season seeds. It’s flawless, and the generous serving can easily satisfy three hungry people (or, you can just take the leftovers home)!

Shanghai Fried Rice
Shanghai Fried Rice

Red Peony’s special Shanghai Fried Rice ($9.95) with scallions and egg, was a perfect accompaniment to our delicious chicken entree. How they make fried rice that is not greasy at all is a mystery to me.

Plate of Chinese Food

This looks like a fresh and tasty meal that you would be proud to serve to your family at home, but it tastes even better at Red Peony, because they made it for you (and, let’s be honest; their secret recipes make it taste better than you or I could).

Peking Duck

For those who want to make any meal feel like a special occasion, Red Peony does a whole Peking Duck served with all of the traditional accompaniments for just $58! Bring a few friends along and discover what everyone loves about the delicacy (reservations recommended if you plan to order this dish)!

Sweet Egg Custard Bun
Sweet Egg Custard Bun

When it’s time for dessert, Red Peony offers a selection of sweet treats that you won’t find anywhere else, and I loved the vibrant photographs that show you just what to expect when the dish arrives at your table — because presentation is everything. These Sweet Egg Custard Bun ($6.95) — which look like three little pigs!– have me intrigued for a future visit!

Stew Peach Gum Tremella Soup
Stew Peach Gum Tremella Soup

This tasty looking dessert is called Stew Peach Gum Tremella Soup ($10.95), a sweet, gelatinous dish featuring the resin from peach and Chinese wild peach trees. The nutritional content of peach gum is off the charts, so you might want to ask your server about this on your next visit.

Red Bean Short Cakes
Red Bean Short Cakes

We were so stuffed, but wanted to add a little something to top off such a great meal, and these Red Bean Short Cakes ($4.95) were the perfect finishing touch. These little fried turnovers feature a flaky crust stuffed with sweet red bean paste, and garnished with toasted black sesame seeds. We enjoyed them with the pot  of green tea which accompanies your meal free of charge.

Upstairs Dining Room View 1

You can see by the prices included here that Red Peony is very reasonably priced, making it one of the best dining out values in midtown, by far. At press time the restaurant does not yet have its liquor license, but they welcome you to bring your own bottle of wine. I’m looking forward to a return visit!

Red Peony Chinese Restaurant is Located at 24 West 56 Street Between 5th and 6th Avenues in Manhattan. Check Out Their Extensive Menu, Make a Reservation, or Order Online at Red Peony Restaurant Dot Com !

Red Peony Interior Shot Wall

4 Tips to Boost Your Self-Image

Chess Pieces
Image Source

Unfortunately, many people suffer from low self-esteem and lack of confidence. While the occasional body hang-up is normal, poor self-image can have a hugely negative impact on your physical and mental well-being in the long-run. For that reason, it’s important to take steps to improve your confidence and feel happy in your own skin. With this in mind, here are four tips to boost your self-image:

1. Stop Being a Perfectionist

One of the major reasons why people have low self-image is due to the obsession with their flaws and the idea of perfection. You must remember that everyone has things about their body or their life that they aren’t fully happy with. Try to let go of the idea of perfection and focus on the positives. While constructive thoughts and opinions can help you develop as a person, avoid your inner critic from harming your self-image by being overly critical. Assess yourself honestly and look for ways to improve as a person, but avoid striving for perfection. This will help you feel far happier and more content in the long-run.

Dont Compare Yourself

2. Avoid Comparing Yourself to Others

In a world full of social media and Photoshop, it can be difficult not to compare yourself to others. Social media can make you envious about other people’s jobs, lifestyles, relationships, jobs, and vacations, and this can harm your physical and mental well-being. For instance, there have been various studies showing a strong connection between social media use and low self-esteem. While social media can be an extremely useful tool, you should be aware of the risks and avoid comparing yourself to others online. Remember that nothing is perfect and people only show you what they want to display online.

Fashion Accessories

3. Boost Your Personal Style

One of the simplest ways to improve your self-image and confidence is by improving your personal style. Becoming more stylish doesn’t have to involve spending loads of money on expensive clothes or upgrading your whole wardrobe. You can easily freshen up your look by purchasing a few classic accessories like a trendy hat or some standout jewelry. If you wear glasses, then treat yourself to a quality, stylish pair like Tory Burch glasses. A new pair of glasses can instantly make you feel more confident by enhancing your features and adding style to your daily look.

4. Take Pride in Your Appearance

Nowhere does it say that you have to wear a full face of makeup or style your hair every morning if you don’t want to. However, taking the time to enhance your looks can instantly boost your self-image and make you look and feel more confident. Taking pride in your appearance and wanting to look your best shouldn’t be considered vain or shallow. Improving your looks is one of the most effective ways to improve your self-image and confidence. Following a good skincare routine, experimenting with different hairstyles, testing new beauty products, and eating a healthy diet, are all ways to help you look and feel your best.

Self Esteem Sign

Product Review: Just Water, Sustainably Sourced from the First Drop!

Just Water and Pitcher
All Photos By Gail

With single-use plastics on the way out, one consumer item that will be most-impacted by the need for alternative packaging is something we use every day: Water. Most everyone carries their own portable water bottle when they’re on-the-go these days, but when you’re away from a source for refilling that bottle, the need to buy ‘bottled’ water remains. It’s exciting to see how manufacturers will meet the demand for sustainable consumer packaging going forward, and one company that’s definitely blazing the trail is JUST Water, a product that I was introduced to at the recent BDNY Hospitality Industry show at Javits Center.

Just Water Display

JUST was created by a group of environmentally-conscious individuals who came together to drive social and environmental impact through a business that rethinks how we source, deliver and consume the items we hold in our hands every day. The company’s business model combines for-profit energy and non-profit motives with the goal of affordably offering products with impact. JUST was created to be Better for Everyone®.

Just Water Branding

Better For Everyone

From the beginning, JUST Water comes a from a renewable source: the Glens Falls watershed in Upstate New York, which is a sustainable source of spring water. They pay the community six times the going rate for its water. By placing a greater value on an abundant natural resource which has been historically undervalued, JUST Water provides a new income source for the city, which is expected to reach $1 million over the next 3 – 5 years. This income helps maintain the infrastructure and funds repairs to the aging water pipes, benefitting everybody.

Just Advertising Banner

Moving on to the innovative packaging, which is made of paper with a plant-based-plastic cap, 82% of every JUST Water carton is plant-derived. The result: a 74% reduction in carbon emissions compared to a standard plastic water bottle.

Just Water Flavors

JUST Water delivers refreshing, delicious spring water in a guilt-free package, and for those who prefer a light fruit taste in their water,  it also comes in four organic, fruit-infused flavors: Cherry, Orange, Lemon, and Lime. Find out more about JUST Water, and get a discount towards your purchase, at Just Water Dot Com.

 

Merry Christmas 2019 From Worleygig.com!

Holiday Bulb Wreath
Photo By Gail

I don’t expect a heavy flow of traffic to come through the blog today, but I did want to mark the occasion with sincere and heartfelt wishes to everyone for a very lovely day. Merry Christmas!

Pink Baubles

Happy Christmas Eve, 2019!

Kiddie Rides
Photo By Gail, Taken in Chinatown, NYC

Wishing All of My Readers a Beautiful Christmas!

GoFundMe: Raising Funds for Ivan Julian Cancer Surgery

Voidoids Band
Marc Bell, Ivan Julian, Robert Quine and Richard Hell: The Voidoids Circa 1977 (Image Source)

Campaign Description:

Ivan Julian has been re-diagnosed with an invasive form of cancer and needs our immediate help! Ivan faces a serious surgery within the next month and won’t be able to fully recover and work for at least 6 months. A GoFundMe campaign started by Julian’s son Austin (Link Here) is  looking to raise $75,000 to pay for medical (surgery and post op-care), cost of living, and health insurance expenses.

For those who do not know Ivan personally, you are probably familiar with his music. Ivan is a founding member and guitarist of the quintessential punk band, Richard Hell and the Voidoids. He has played in influential musical groups including The Clash, The Foundations, and Matthew Sweet and is a continuous force in the New York music community. Ivan continues to produce cutting edge music to this day in his recording studio, Super Giraffe Sound, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. A powerful influence on rock music for decades, it is important for us to support the artists who have paved our way and help them continue sharing their gift to us. Ivan is facing a big challenge ahead, but can win the fight with your help!

Ivan Julian GFM Update
Funds Raised as of Monday November 25, 2019

Additional information about Ivan’s battle:

In late October 2015, Ivan Julian was diagnosed with stage 3.5 cancer. From November 2015 to February 2016, Ivan’s doctors ordered an aggressive treatment plan: 5 days a week radiation and a combination of chemotherapy pills as well as injections. During which time Ivan was unable to work and was in constant pain. His medical and living expenses accumulated. What saved Ivan’s life in 2016 was crowdfunding from people like you. The GoFundMe Campaign and Heart On Fire, a musicians benefit held at City Winery in May of 2016 by a group of generous friends and fellow musicians, together helped raise enough money for Ivan to get his much needed treatment.

The treatment Ivan’s doctors ordered was brutal, but effective. When asked about what he went through for a Newsweek article, Ivan described it as “the black hole”. Despite the pain, Ivan returned to work once he was able, teaching young aspiring film/music students about audio at the City College. Due to Ivan’s health condition, he’s only able to work for limited hours as a part-time Adjunct Professor, to which position there is no health insurance eligible. Without the previous crowdfunding, Ivan would not be able to get the treatment his doctors ordered for him.

Now we are here asking for your help because Ivan’s cancer has come back. It has evolved into a specific type that has an unpredictable growth rate, and has the potential to be imminently fatal. Because of the threat the cancer is imposing, the doctors have ordered surgery. The surgery that Ivan’s doctors have prescribed would remove the cancer permanently. This surgery, however, will require months of recovery time where Ivan will be unable to work and will still need to take care of rent, insurance, and the expenses of the surgery. Because of the unpredictable nature of his type of cancer, This surgery is slated to take place within the month, and can’t be postponed with risk of the cancer spreading to a point where treatment is impossible.

We are hoping to raise $75,000 for Ivan to cover his medical bills and necessary leave from work for at least six months during his recovery. Ivan’s insurance and New York City rent alone will take a huge toll on Ivan without any generated income. It is crucial that Ivan has support from us in his time of recovery, and that we give back to someone who has given so much throughout his life. Visit the GoFundMe campaign to make a donation at This Link.

If you would like to donate directly, please Venmo @Austin-julian-3.