A Summer in Chicago

So – I guess I get why they say Chicago summers are the best. I moved here at the end of June, life unfolded almost instantly, and here I am, mid-October, feeling perhaps the most settled I’ve felt since my junior year of high school (which was over A DECADE ago, by the way. Where has the time gone?). While saying I don’t miss New York would be a lie, my time in Chicago feels very purposeful on a personal level, and now that I’ve had a chance to get my bearings in this new-to-me city, I’m excited to dive in, do work, and see where I land. All of that, and then also visit New York the first chance I get (see you next weekend, NY pals!).

Since we haven’t caught up in a while (How are YOU? Coffee soon!), here’s a visual peek at some of the things I’ve been up to over the past few months, in my life back in the Midwest.

Entertaining in the Empire City: Jess’ go-to Guide

Happy Friday! It’s the last day of the workweek and my the last post for the Entertaining in the Empire City series. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22 excited about both!

Today’s recommendations come from my best friend and roommate, Jess. Background info: I met Jess over a decade ago – participating in a variety show for our hometown theater. I became true friends with Jess when we were hired by Retail-Giant-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to deep clean their store with steel wool and a variety of semi-toxic cleaning products. I stayed friends with her for too many reasons to list. Top of my mind reasons include: Jess can hold a conversation with anyone, she’s never afraid to ask for what she wants, and her Instagram is a carefully curated work of art. She has the voice of Beyoncé, the face of Taylor Swift ;) and she always knows what she wants for dinner. The fact that she selflessly offers sound advice and unconditional support when you need it is just added bonus. (I really just keep her around for her Instagramming abilities).

So last but not least, in her words, here is Jess’ list of her favorite New York spots to show to out-of-town visitors.

Housing Works Bookstore, Soho: This place makes you feel like a hipster Belle in a bookstore paradise with spiral staircases and hundreds of rare, new, and used books. Pair that with a non-fat latte and decent record collection for browsing. Who needs a prince anyway?

UCB Cagematch, Chelsea: It goes without saying that Amy Poehler knows what’s up. Basically everything she touches turns to genius so it’s no surprise her underground improv den is sweaty, rowdy, and a whole lot of fun. I took my dad here for a midnight Cagematch show. He came for the PBRs, but stayed for the impressive fart jokes.

Le Cheile, Washington Heights: This one is just me being selfish. This adorable Irish bar is 2 blocks from my apartment. With its local art, subway tile decor, and locally sourced brews this place gives Brooklyn a run for its money. Oh, and the GIANT grilled cheese is kind of out of this world.

Fort Tryon Park, Washington Heights: If you want to blow a tourist’s mind take them to this park. It feels like you’ve been dropped inside a mythical fairy land complete with beautiful flower gardens, tangles of tree branches overhead, and castles filled to the brim with medieval art. Oh, and somehow you’re still in Manhattan.

PUNDERDOME 3000, Gowanus, Brooklyn: Alright, I’ll hand it to Brooklyn for this one. PUNDERDOME is a weirdly wonderful evening once a month where pun aficionados convene in a battle royal of wits. Don’t question it, just go. It’s a pun of fun (get it?!).

 

And that’s a wrap on Entertaining in the Empire City, folks! Anything we missed? Anything you’re dying to check out?

Entertaining in the Empire City: Anela and Mandy’s Favorite Spots

Day three. You know the drill. These two ladies are one-of-a-kind friends, and both have such unique takes on their favorite spots in the city. I met them both at the same former job (at different times), and even both being ladies of fashion, their tastes couldn’t be more different.

Up first, Anela – who was born and raised in Long Island and bleeds Brooklyn to the tee. She’s lived all over the boroughs, recently traveled to Africa, and finds inspiration everywhere she goes and in everything she does. She’s quirky, fun, and endlessly curious. Here’s what she has to say:

Anela prefaces, “These are my all time favorite places to eat. They really have an old school vibe to them, and are very New York. I’ve gotten to know them well, and I have to say they have stolen my heart. ”

As mentioned previously, my friend Mandy is another one of the fashionistas I surround myself with on the reg. Her Cali roots have instilled her with a sense of adventure and a professional drive that never gives up. For someone who I forced to call me “Princess” for the first three weeks we were acquainted (the same name didn’t vibe well with me off the bat), I’m surprised (and delighted!) that we are as close as we are now. But more so than that, I’m grateful, because I can’t imagine my New York life without her honest, rom-com-y, positive outlook on life. Here’s a few of Mandy’s favorite places she likes to show off to visitors.

Entertaining in the Empire City: According to Mike

Here is part deux of the series I made up introduced yesterday – Entertaining in the Empire City.

The question: “When you have visitors in NYC, what are the five places (restaurants, bars, etc.) you MUST take them?

The answerer: my pal Mike, who currently resides in LA. I had the good fortune of befriending Mike a few years ago in between folding heaps of Joe’s Jeans, color-coding sock walls and opening fitting room doors for cheap men price-conscious shoppers at a former job. Simply put, Mike’s the best. I trust his fashion sense tenfold over my own. His sarcasm and wit are constantly on point, and he’s one of the most genuine people I have ever met. Also, I think that it’s a universally accepted truth that you haven’t lived until Mike’s called you a bitch. He uses that word better than anyone I know and it’s hilarious and honest (and warranted) every single time.

Mike’s answers: I should note that he mentioned, “I had a hard time sticking to 5 places.” Here’s what made the cut:

  • The Room, Soho: Chillest bar ever.
  • The Heights Bar & Grill,  Morningside Heights: Cannot miss the happy hour on their rooftop.
  • The Sixth Ward, Lower East Side: $20 for brunch with unlimited mimosas.
  • Raines Law Room, Union Square: Really cool speakeasy. Visitors die over this place because they feel like they’re part of some exclusive New York lifestyle. *eye roll*
  • Veselka, East Village: Pierogi all day every day. OMG AND MINDY KALING LOVES IT TOO.*
  • Koronet Pizza, Morningside Heights: I don’t care what anyone says; this is the best NYC pizza place.
  • Spice (Multiple Locations): Delicious Thai food, and they’re all over Manhattan.
  • Obviously Shake Shack (Multiple locations): I love taking west coasters here.  They’ll never admit it’s better than In-N-Out, but they’ll know it’s true. Just like they won’t admit Disney World is better than Disneyland. “You just can’t compare the two,” they say.  YEAH, BECAUSE DISNEY WORLD IS THAT MUCH BETTER.

*see Mindy Kaling’s Instagram for further information.

Entertaining in the Empire City: a la Allison

Do you live in a big city and find yourself desperate and unsure of what to do when you have to get to entertain visitors? I suppose you really don’t have to live in a big city to warrant that problem. But alas, a problem it is for many, if the random sampling I took of my friends holds true to the population at large.

Truth is, although I’ve been neglecting to update my audience here, I do tend to find myself occupied most weeknights and many weekends of the year — like you too, I am sure. But whenever I have guests coming that ask me to plan a fun weekend, my mind draws blank. My weekends in distant memory are suddenly painted in cherry red Netflix, my favorite coffee shop morphs into a Starbucks and the only activities that come to mind are Time Square, the Statue of Liberty and Central Park. Like most city-dwellers, none of that generally occupies my daily life. Point is — I always struggle to come up with cute, quaint, and not mega tourist-heavy spots for my house-guests.

I wanted to curate a no-fail list of amazing restaurants, activities et al to entertain weekend visitors, if you too happen to live in the city and face this problem. However – what do I know? A lot of my weekends DO consist of Netflix. So I did what any other girl would have done – I got by with a little help from my friends. And since I have many wonderful people in my life who volunteered to help a girl out, I decided to make this into a series.

Each of these fine New York loving pals took their own unique twist on answering my question, and their picks highlighted their own experience in the city and personality to a fault. So without further ado, I begin the first entry in my Entertaining in the Empire City series.

I’ve known Allison literally since the day I moved to New York. Unbeknownst to us both at that time, we later lived with each other for about a year, and even now we still remain close since her exciting relocation to Chicago a few months back. To paint you a little picture, Allison is what you’d get if you blended Carrie Bradshaw and Elizabeth Warren in a mixer, heated in the oven for 40 minutes at 375 degrees, and then iced that to look like Jackie O. She’s powerful, classy, and unapologetically herself 24/7. It’s no surprise that her favorite New York haunts are riddled with those vibes as well. In her words, here’s her favorite locales to entertain guests:

Dive Bar: Fourfaced LiarWest Village: Best place to meet the real New Yorkers who have lived in Greenwich Village for over 30 + years, who might have a drinking problem — but that only adds to its charm.  Ironically has the best bloody mary in Manhattan (made by John the bartender).

Mob-vibe Italian: VolareGreenwich Village: If you are under 35 you will be easily the youngest person there.  Even if you don’t eat here, go in and have a Negroni to experience the place.  In a city where restaurants open and close all the time, Volare has been a West Village staple for ages and you feel like you’ve entered a time warp when you walk in.

Wasted Happy Hour: Pazza NotteMidtown West: Best bang for your buck happy hour.  2 for 1 Martinis all night, 7 days a week.  Pizza, Risotto, and truffle fries (they LOVE their truffle oil here) are amazing and are the perfect foods to keep your hangover at bay.

Best ViewPer SeHell’s Kitchen: I literally take friends and family who are visiting here because I do not want to wait in line or be part of the Empire Hotel rooftop scene. Outstanding ambiance and you can always get a seat and enjoy a martini which are great here.  They usually have a DJ so you can dance if you want.

Cafe Grumpy Review

As a follow-up from yesterday’s heavy post, I did want to thank those of you who reached out. I really appreciate all of the warm thoughts and prayers you guys are offering up on behalf of Kourtney’s family and friends, and know others share that gratitude as well.

Today, I definitely felt the urge to lighten the mood, so I’ll move forward with that coffee shop review I mentioned yesterday…  A while back, my friend and I met for espresso at Cafe Grumpy: a local coffee shop in Chelsea that’s been around for a few years. Lena Dunham’s Girls’ character works (did work? I’m not caught up) at the Green Point location. Since I’m nowhere near cool enough for Brooklyn, I decided to see what my work neighborhood’s location had to offer.

Cafe Grumpy

I didn’t photograph the latte art or take any fancy shots of the chill ambiance because I am the worst ever, but the feeling of “cool” definitely plagued the air. Maybe that was because we got seats by the ill-shutting door and it was eight degrees outside? I’d settle for an even mix of both.

The latte was strong, the coffee was smooth, and I ordered something titled a “jalapeño cheddar biscuit” that was the size of my extended hand (because how could you not?) that absolutely changed my life. Other than that, I think it’s simultaneously cool and sort of silly that they don’t have wifi. Cool for fostering an un-plugged atmosphere of socialization and relaxation/uncool for the obvious reason that the wiffy (Nick Miller’s pronunciation, heyyyy New Girl fans) being kind of THE thing niche coffee shops have going for them.

I’m kind of a sucker for a fine selection of coffees and freshly baked pastries, so the fact each Cafe Grumpy location offers both is huge. Overall, it was nice experience, and I’d go back for more of those jalapeño cheddar pieces of heaven alone.

BarBacon Review

As soon as I heard about BarBacon — a single focused restaurant that opened a few months back in Hell’s Kitchen, I forced nicely asked one of my friends to accompany me on a visit. A restaurant that centralized on the winning (and artery clogging) bacon and beer combo — what could be better?

We started with the Tasting, which included four kinds of bacon: jalapeño, spicy pepper, maple and smoked applewood. Each was delectable, but we deemed the jalapeño as our favorite. Before going, I noticed that Yelp reviewers were loving on the grilled cheese and lobster roll. A common thought after doing some preliminary research would be to order said grilled cheese and/or lobster roll, but my friend and I aren’t really the trend-following type (just kittens we met working in fashion), so she went for the pulled pork sandwich and I opted to check out the lobster bisque. Both entrees were phenomenal.

If I went back again (and against the health-conscious part of my brain’s better judgement, I would), I think I would cave and try the grilled cheese. And probably not go at 7pm on a Friday since it’s the end of their happy hour (4-7pm is half off well drinks and beers) and they don’t take reservations. Overall, it’s a cute joint. If you’re the meat-eating type and ever find yourself in Hell’s Kitchen, it’s worth checking out.

Bar Bacon SignBar Bacon BaconIMG_0319Bar Bacon PorkBar Bacon Lobster Bisque

Dough Loco

Last week, a friend told me about a new-ish donut shop that opened up a few streets over from my apartment. It was allegedly getting rave reviews, and was known for its huge, doughy pastries PLUS it serves the smoothest coffee this side of the Hudson: Blue Bottle. He didn’t have to say much more to convince me to check it out on my day off.

Dough Loco is located in a small hole-in-the-wall hipster shop on Park and 97th. I went in the early afternoon on a Thursday and it was dead — literally zero customers inside — which should have been awesome… except they didn’t have wi-fi and the guy behind the counter was giving off some awkward vibes, so I decided to indulge in my fit of gluttony in Central Park.

The donuts I decided to try were the Maple Miso, per all of awesome the Yelp reviews I read, and the Raspberry Sriracha because HELLO, RASPBERRY SRIRACHA?!?! Also, the Yelp reviews were all “they’re SO big — there’s no way any normal sized person could eat more than one — really even an entire donut!” Needless to say I ate both, fulfilling my need to constantly affirm my impending obesity. They were big, doughy, just the right amount of sweet, and ever so satisfying. The Maple Miso was fine — really just tasted like a regular sweet donut to me. The Raspberry Sriracha, as the name obviously suggests, is where it’s AT. The Yelp reviews also foiled me into thinking it was going to be heavy on the raspberry flavor and light on the spiciness of the hot sauce — not the case. I got a fun little kick with each bite, and wouldn’t hesitate to call it the best donut I’ve ever tasted. [Disclaimer: I’m not a donut enthusiast, so keep it in your pants, Doughnut Plant obsessives.] Regardless, Dough Loco is a great, trendy addition to the UES/East Harlem hoods, and I’ll definitely be back.

Dough Loco Collage

 

Friendsgivukkah Recipes

Give Thanks

Thanksgiving week us upon us, pals! While I’m excited to have a few days off of work, spend time with some of my amazing friends and see the Macy’s parade in person, I’m a little bit dreading cooking for Friendsgiving (Or Friendsgivukkah, as I’m refer to it while pretending I have Jewish friends that will be in attendance). While I’ve had my outfit picked out for a week, I’m a little more last minute when it comes to preparing my portion of the menu. I like to pretend I can hold my own in the kitchen (I CAN if you consider “holding my own” microwaving a veggie patty and eating it off of a paper towel); but in all honesty, cooking is challenge for me. Perhaps, more that it’s something-I-don’t-allot-the-time-for-because-I’m-single-and-content-eating-microwave-popcorn-everyday, and less an actual challenge. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Here are some recipes I’ve found on the web that sound awesome — so someone should probably make them and bring them to our gathering because letsbehonest, I’m bringing wine.

Sullivan Street Bakery

Every day calls for coffee, but some days, you just need a latte. And not a fake, sugar-filled, 7-11 style “Skinny Cow Mocha” that comes out of a push-spout on a “coffee” machine, but real espresso poured over steamed and foamed milk. Enter Sullivan Street Bakery.

Sullivans Bakery1

Sullivans Bakery 2

Sullivans Bakery4

SSB is actually known for their no-knead bread, from which they make excellent pastries, pizzas, and loaves of all shapes and sizes. I wasn’t very hungry so I stuck with the drink and some fancy-sounding pastry with a name I didn’t know how to correctly pronounce. While the pastry was sweeter and smaller than what I had hoped, the dough didn’t disappoint. Being a former barista myself, I was also able to appreciate the latte art and the over-looked essence of being able to sit down, relax, and slowly sip the steamed beverage.

That snack cost me just under $10, and while I expected to pay more for that than something comparable at Dunkin’ Donuts, I thought it was a little much for such a small lunch. Regardless, the experience of sitting in a corner of a cutesy bakery sipping on an overpriced, frilly drink while reading that morning’s AM New York (something’s gotta give) was just what I needed. I visited the Chelsea location, but Jim Lahey also owns another (the main) SSB location in Hell’s Kitchen and a renowned pizza restaurant, Co., also in Chelsea.