August 22, 2017

People at GROM, sorry but you got the ALMOND GRANITA all WRONG!

I am a Sicilian woman transplanted here in New York since the Nineties. Before that, I was born and raised in Sicily. This preface to say that I know a lot about both Sicily and New York.

One of my favorite foods from Sicily is the glorious GRANITA, and to be more precise the ALMOND GRANITA, which, in Sicily, you religiously eat accompanied by one or two warm brioches. Let me show you a picture of what this food of the gods looks like:

The white, cold and creamy stuff in the glass is the above mentioned almond granita.

As I said, it's creamy and refreshing when it hits your palate. It's better than any ice they sell here in New York, as it doesn't have any of the grittiness, and it feels so smooth in your mouth that it's hard to believe that it's made out of ice. The flavor is of delicate, sweet almonds.

The two warm brioches in the background are anything but secondary to the granita. They elevate the already deliciousness of the meal to something impossible to describe: you must to taste it to really understand the fortune of the few to which this experience is readily available every day (my fellow Sicilians!)

But let me try and give you an idea: You start by pulling apart the warm top bun of the brioche and you dip it in the granita. You scoop a little granita up with the brioche and eat both the granita and the brioche together. The mix of warm and cold takes the taste buds to an exhilarating roller coaster ride of textures and flavors, but also amazement that something so good only costs three Euros.

I was on vacation in Sicily just a few weeks ago, and I always try to squeeze in as many granita breaks as I possibly can in my daily meals. I even tried taking a few brioches back home with me, but they don't fly well and don't last long before they go stale.

In the past, I've tried making the granita and the brioches from scratch here at home, and I would rate my results a seven out of ten, but the work involved and the time it takes to get this meal together is just too much to do on a daily or even on a monthly basis.

So you can imagine my happiness (obviously mixed in with a bit of skepticism) when I heard that there was an Italian gelateria named GROM in New York that made my almond granita, and that it now had a store close to my job!

The next day I decided to give it a try, but before heading to Grom, I stopped by Whole Foods to buy a makeshift brioche so that I had something to dip in the granita.

When I reached Grom, I could feel the excitement growing inside me while I anxiously looked around the counter for my granita. When I finally found it, my super happy taste buds started sending messages to my brain that the fun was about to begin!

I asked the person behind the counter for a cup of almond granita, but instead of an answer I got a warning:

"You might want to have a taste before you buy it."

Wait, what?!? Who would ever say anything bad about my almond granita? Maybe this person had very different food preferences than mine (it's possible)? I accept the offer on a small spoon and get ready to taste this New York almond granita, which hopefully will taste just as good as the one they make in Sicily.

OMG! (And I never say OMG, but OMG!) It was DISGUSTING!

I couldn't believe, actually I couldn't understand what was in my mouth! I asked to see the container with the granita: it looked like pancake batter!

Almond granita looks nothing like pancake batter!

And it tasted like pancake batter with a bunch of fresh crushed almond in it! It's horrible, just horrible what they are trying to pass for almond granita at Grom New York!

My granita, made at home, with my Kitchen Aid Mixer tastes a hundred times better! It's such a shame.

I understand that maybe Grom has this idea of fresh ingredients (crumbled almonds) on their products, but this is not how they make it in Sicily. We don't chew a granita. This one was so gross, and I am not that one disgruntled and opinionated customer... the employee knew that it tasted horrible, and felt that it was necessary to give me a warning!

So now I am talking directly to you, Grom, New York. You have three options:

1) Stop calling it a Sicilian Almond Granita, because it is NOT a Sicilian Almond Granita. Call it a chilled, crunchy almond concoction, because that's what it basically is.

2) Take a trip to Catania, Sicily, and go to any granita places on Via Etnea. I can suggest Savia and Spinella as two great granita makers. Sit down and order an almond granita with a brioche and after you finish it, cry and feel the shame on having sold such gunk to your customers.

3) Give me a call. I will teach you how to make it.

Federico e Guido, ma voi siete mai venuti a New York ad assaggiare questa granita alla mandorla che fanno nelle vostre gelaterie? Ma l'avete mai assaggiata una granita a Catania?

Before I go, let me show you another picture of a REAL almond granita:

There! I hope this post won't fall on deaf ears, and Grom will learn how to make a decent almond granita (and toss that crunchy concoction in the garbage for good, because that's where it's going already anyway)!

April 26, 2016

The strange noises of a Staten Island night

It's a bird, it's a plane... at least that time they figured out it was Superman! Not the same can be said about what people heard last night in Staten Island, NY.

I am a light sleeper and I'm usually woken up by thunder, cars roaring down my street, or unusual noises in general, but what woke me up last night, at around 3:40 AM, was something more than unusual. It was downright scary and eerie.

Because Spring has finally sprung here, I was sleeping with the window a bit open and my side of the bed is quite close to it: I like feeling the cool breeze of the nicer weather lull me to sleep, but alas, last night I got more than a breath of spring air.

It was raining and it was coming down pretty hard, and this is when I think I started to come out of my sleep, also because at this point lighting was stricking and my eyelids must be just eyes accessories because they don't shield me much from nuisances like these. So the pit pat pit pat of the rain coupled with the flashing lights at the window, and now I was up.

In my grogginess, my ears slowly started to capture a weird noise beside the pit pat and the occasional thunder: it sounded like... it sounded like... and this is where I started to get a little scared. It sounded like nothing I heard before and while half asleep I struggled to understand what was happening.

My first impression was that it was a plane flying low in the sky above us, but usually in that case the noise gets louder as it gets closer, and shortly after that it goes away. This noise didn't change in intensity and it wasn't going away, it just kept coming and going. On and off. It sounded like a plane yes, but as if the pilot was drunk or playing with the gas pedal, speeding up and then letting go, speeding up and then letting go. With each new noise my heart started to beat faster.

I didn't want to give in the fear and I kept telling myself that I was being silly, but with each new loud noise, it became harder and harder to keep calm. Weird thoughts of war or being attacked by 'something' started to cloud my judgment. I woke my husband up.

I told him 'Listen'.

I was afraid he was going to laugh at me, and I actually hoped he had an explanation to calm my fears so I could go back to sleep, but he didn't. He actually stood at the window listening for what felt like a whole minute. The noises were still out there. Somewhere up in the dark sky but somehow so close.

All the reruns of Twilight Zone kept playing in my head. A little bit of Stephen King's The Mist. Fortunately I never watched The Walking Dead because my next thought would have been 'Zombies are coming!'

And then, just like that, the noises stopped. The rain stopped. We heard a few fire trucks pass by. And then, my husband went back to sleep. But not I!

As a mother and a good citizen, I wanted to make sure that everything was ok, and really needed a rational explanation for what had happened. I couldn't just go to sleep. So I turned to my virtual friends on a Staten Island Facebook group. I posted a note asking if anyone else had heard what I had heard. And the comments started pouring in! All of us up in the middle of the night wondering and no one had an answer. Just a million different theories: aliens, thunders, a tornado, gas escaping from a plant in NJ, steam releasing from somewhere in NJ, a plane falling down... basically nobody knew.

Of all the good comments one described the noise perfectly for me, the way I couldn't: it sounded like  a blow torch going on and off. A blow torch, yes, but not as if your neighbor was doing a little work in his backyard, no, this sounded as if Zeus was torching something up on Mount Olympus!

After reading for a good hour all the comments that kept coming in, I was finally able to relax and go back to sleep.

But waking up this morning and still finding nothing on the news about it makes me uneasy. Were all the reporters deep asleep? Is this something no one cares about? Or did Staten Island really cross, for a brief period of time, the borders of the Twilight Zone?

August 30, 2015

Dear United Colors of Benetton...

Dear Benetton,

I haven't written on my blog in quite a while because I've moved on from fashion obsession, but you've managed to excite (read pi$$) me enough to pick up the "pen" again and write a few words just for you.

If you don't have enough time to read, well, I'll try to sum it up in these first few lines:

What the #*^@ is going on with you?

But let me start from the beginning.

As I am soon traveling to Washington DC, I was doing some preliminary research about things to do and places to shop at while there. Since here in New York we have only ONE pathetic Benetton store left, I wanted to see if maybe I could find a store in Washington DC to buy some fall items before the cold hits us.

Well, I wasted a good few minutes of my precious time looking up and down your list for the UNITED STATES store locator, but as you can see below, it seems that the UNITED STATES are not included in your list.

As this seemed hard to believe, I looked up the WHOLE list one more time, wasting more precious time that I could have used to read up on how many new stores Zara is opening up in the US... but, alas, you've decided that the United States do not need to be on the list (I've already notified you, so if by the time you read this the error has been already corrected... you're welcome).

So basically I had to use Google to find the store in Washington DC, but I better hurry up and get there before it closes, because from reading the reviews on Yelp, it's not looking good for those folks over there:

Not that the reviews from San Francisco look any better: 

The biggest complaint is that the sales people are rude, and that is a HUGE problem for any retail business, so maybe that's a good place to start if you are in any way interested in keeping your business going here in the US.

Next is the declined quality of your clothes, and I can attest to that since a lot of my sweaters never make it past one year of wear.

Lastly, your online store is one of the worst out there (not to mention the fact that you came to the online shopping scene so late that so many people still think you don't have an online presence) with such a little selection and long shipping times.

So Mr. Benetton, what is going on??? 

See, when I got tired of blogging I just stopped writing, I didn't continue just because, without passion and putting horrible pieces of writing out there just to abuse my readers. No, I just stepped away, because that's the right thing to do.

But you? What are you doing here in the US?

Every time I turn around another store closes. We are left with only one store in Manhattan, when we used to have quite a few. And when I try to ask any of your sales people they never know what to say.

I was in Italy last year, and I've found many Benetton stores still open and happy to operate and help customers. But here in the States it seems that Benetton is a completely different animal, a brand that nobody cares about anymore. So what's the point of keeping it open?

I understand that it operates as a franchise here, and that is what many people are pointing at as the problem, but guess what? McDonald's is a franchise, so no, that should not be the problem.

The problem must be up top. It's the operations, it's the lack of interest and focus, it's the complicated business model, it's the resigned attitude that are going to be the fatal blows that will make Benetton disappear from the US.

Is that what you want? If yes, then congrats, you will get your wish soon.

But if not, what are you waiting for?? You need to make a serious 180 turn asap.

You need better people managing these US stores, you need better quality control, you need to care and show that you care. People in the US have far too many choices to let any sales person be rude to them more than once. They don't need to shop at Benetton.

The only thing keeping you alive is people like me, nostalgic idiots who travel miles and miles to get to a store, but how long do you think this is going to last?

So, if you are in any way interested in keeping Benetton alive here in the US, please start making tangible changes, starting with hiring people who know how to handle the US market and US customers (because it seems you are lacking on both fronts).

Best Regards,
a soon to be ex customer

May 16, 2014

The Secret to Happiness

Yes, I've finally found that the secret to being happy... is being content!

While I'm not sure this will apply to all, it definitely applies to me. Ok, so it's my secret.

As an A personality, a perfectionist and a very "anal"itical person, I've always been very driven, but I've also realized that this way of being has made me very tired, always looking for something (better) and never completely happy with anything. Well, that's no way to be (if you want to be happy).

So I started to change my outlook on things, and while it wasn't easy, having a happiness goal at the end of the line helped tremendously.

Instead of looking for the "best" I started looking for something "good". And let me tell you, finding good is a lot easier than finding the best! Especially in our modern society, where we have so many options on anything, finding the best intrinsically means you need to evaluate every option, and there lies the problem: do you really want to spend your life looking for the best of everything and being left with no time to enjoy life itself? Me, neither.

Why having to try out every body soap ever created (read my previous post) to find a favorite one? What if you find that you really like the third one you've ever tried and there are still 10 different brands you haven't tried on the shelves? Why spend the money and time to try out the other 10 and then probably find out that you still prefer that third one? Be content. Appreciate that third one and move on.

The body soaps example is just that, an example. You can apply it to many other things in life, from big to small: a couch, a house, a dog, a job, a man...

Just don't confuse being content with settling. When you settle you're rarely happy, and you'll settle mostly because you ran out of choices (or you thought you had no choice). When you are content with something, it genuinely makes you happy (if it doesn't, then you're settling), it's a choice you can stand behind and it fills that void that kept you looking for more.

And the most important place to be content is with yourself. Appreciate what you have, learn to love what you don't like about yourself, and be content with who you are. Sometimes is not so easy, but with time and effort and a little self-love, the minute you are finally content with yourself you'll realize it will be a lot easier to also be happy.

April 16, 2014

My Favorite Drugstore Body Wash

I am a bit "compulsive" when it comes to picking and choosing new beauty products. I can't just walk in, buy a product, go home and be happy with it... I need to know that my choice is the best choice out there, or at least, the best choice for me. So how do I do that?

Slowly and painfully.

Slowly because it takes me a long time, since I will try so many products before I settle on one. And painfully because I will try a few "bad" products along the way and maybe hate their smell or their overall feeling on my skin... but it's all part of the process. The process that helps me find the best product out there.

Obviously, there are more products that I can buy and test out there without going crazy, so my technique involves different steps and a few heartless ones at the beginning of the process. Let me show you how I do it:

1) The first step consist of trying to exclude as many products as possible without having to buy them. I'll exclude them based on brand and smell. So goodbye Dial, Softsoap and Suave, because you are just too low on the scale of "fancy" soaps for me.

2) Then I'll try some new ones that I've never tried before. Unfortunately, for as much as I like the Nivea brand, I didn't care much for the body wash. And I discovered too late (after I bought it) that it's loaded with parabens.

3) Lastly, I'll go over some of the old favorites to see if I like them still.

Caress is very silky and smells nice, but maybe it's too rich for my taste (I like the soap to wash off and not leave a thick film on my skin)

St. Ives is a brand I like, but it has a few shortcomings,  for example this whipped silk body wash smells great, but it's too thick, and their coconut scent doesn't smell pure coconut and it's feels too "silicone-y" on the skin. There are still other scents I would like to try, but so far I haven't found a winner here.

But enough blabbering, here are the three best body washes you can find at the drugstore... drum roll please!

Number 3 is Dove. Dove has always been a winner, no matter which scent I try. I love the Cucumber for a Spring/Summer wash, cool and refreshing. In winter I usually pick a creamier one like their Deep Moisture. The consistency is creamy and moisturizing and it never leaves a film.

Number 2 is Olay. Their Ribbons 2 in 1 Essential Oils line is amazing, so moisturizing, and this scent below, the jojoba extract with the luscious orchid smells just divine!

And my winner is... Aveeno! Their Stress Relief Body Wash with Lavender is my favorite and it does just that to me: it takes my stress away. It's not too thick, it has a delicate scent and it leaves me clean and refreshed... it's just the perfect everyday body wash. 

I hope you've enjoyed this stroll down the aisle with me. Please feel free to leave your favorite drugstore body wash in the comments. Until next time...