Looking for Something to do the Last Weekend in August?

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It’s hard to believe that we’re over halfway through the last full month of summer. As a kid, I was always really excited for summer, not just because of the obvious lack of school and homework, but because I loved swimming, would take out as many books (Sweet Valley Twins and Babysitter’s Club, anyone?) as possible from the public library and devour them within weeks, adored fresh watermelon, and couldn’t wait to put on shorts (seriously – my mom would use “you don’t get to wear shorts today” as a punishment on the [rare] occasion that I was misbehaving). Oh, and of course my birthday was in the summer too, and my parents always made sure that birthdays were special in our house, especially because we didn’t start celebrating Christmas until I was twelve (a whole other can of worms for a different blog post).

As an adult, I still look forward to summer, but for different reasons. I don’t know what it is, but in New York, it seems like everyone is so much happier in the summer – the city almost takes on a certain “permanent vacation” feel. Maybe it’s because for the last two years, my bosses have let me basically work from home in August since the office is nearly empty, everyone having cleared out for vacation in the Hamptons.  Maybe it’s the festivals – food festivals, music festivals, street fairs, outdoor movie nights in the park. Maybe it’s the acceptability of day drinking rose (#roseallday), of brunching on both Saturday AND Sunday, of definitely saying yes to the ice cream truck – maybe even twice in one day. Whatever it is, I love it – and I don’t want it to end.

Alas, if I’ve learned anything it’s that change is inevitable, and all good things do eventually come to an end. If you’re looking for one last summer hurrah in the big city before the leaves change color, look no farther than the 12th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party!

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Taking place once in June and once in August, the Jazz Age Lawn Party (JALP) draws people from all over the city to Governor’s Island, a small island 15 minutes off the southern tip of Manhattan that used to be home to the governor/military barracks. A quaint ferry jaunt into a different era, Governor’s Island is not just a place to hear great Jazz. When there aren’t various music festivals taking place (last summer I was there for JALP, Full Moon Fest, AND 90s Fest), the island is a quiet place to pack a picnic, lounge with a book in one of their many hammocks, or rent a tandem bike for a scenic ride with some friends.

Last year, I went to the Jazz Age Lawn Party’s August date – and arrived to a sweltering heat that threatened to melt my face off and enabled those cocktails to really pack a punch. This year, my JALP buddy and I decided to try to beat the heat and go in June – and were greeted with the same heat. Meanwhile, the projected temperature of this year’s August 26-27th date is a balmy 78 – so I would say the best advice is no advice. Go when you please.

The Lawn Party is a treat for several reasons. First, you get to take the ferry across the water, which is always fun and gives a beautiful perspective of the Manhattan skyline.

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Second, it’s always kind of fun to see people dressed up in their flapper gear, making their way through the muggles and over to the ferry dock to join the rest of the costumed festival-goers; there’s a sense of charming complicity.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that the best part of the festival is seeing some of the costumes that people put together. Some people are SO creative and really get into the spirit of it. In fact, almost no one shows up in modern clothes; surrounded by jazz bands playing live music, a croquet lawn, the abandoned yet charming red-brick military housing, and decked-out revelers, you really do feel like you’re being transported into another era.

If you decide to make your way out to Governor’s Island for this weekend’s festival, I would recommend a few things:

~DO bring sunscreen. It is HOT and you will most likely be in full sunlight, as shady spaces near the attractions are hard to come by

~DON’T wear shoes that you are not comfortable walking in grass/gravel/sand in

~DO pack your own picnic lunch – and bring a blanket. I’ve always found the food selection to be expensive and sub-par, and both years they ended up selling out of certain items rather quickly.

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~DON’T buy one of the packages, i.e. “Jazz Baby.” We did last year, and it was nearly twice the price of an already-expensive regular GA ticket – but it included four cocktails and VIP entry. It wasn’t worth it; it was so hot that we were both feeling pretty tipsy after two cocktails, and neither of us drank our fourth. The entry lines also weren’t that crazy, so I didn’t feel like it was much of a deal to get to “skip” the line. Also, they increased the price of the package significantly this year, so overall I would save yourself some money and just get regular GA tickets.

~DO bring a couple of dollars for a ferry ticket (I believe it was $2.50). This was also kind of annoying – last year, the ferry ticket was included in the price of the JALP ticket.

~DO dress up! Don’t be that lame uncostumed person – because you WILL feel out of place. I got my dress, gloves, pearls, and feathered headband on Amazon for $50 – it’s more fun that way and really does contribute to the overall experience.

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For more information and tickets on this lovely way to say goodbye to August and send off the summer, click here.

A Rendezvous in the Lower East Side: Part 2

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago when I wrote about my 27th Birthday Shenanigans, I’ve been spending a lot of time in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Part of this has to do with a relatively recent tradition, one that a good friend and I have taken up religiously for over four months now: Wine Wednesday.

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Wine Wednesday actually started out as Winegasm Wednesday when, fresh off my breakup, said friend came over to my new apartment offering support and friendship and many glasses of cabernet. We decided to venture out of my apartment to check out the wine bar, “Winegasm,” conveniently (too conveniently) located directly across the street from my new digs. It was quiet, they played good music, had great happy hour specials and bomb truffle fries. We were sold, and returned religiously the next week and the week after that.

Fast forward not even three weeks to another Wednesday, when we arrived outside of our beloved bar to find one of New York’s notorious “Permanently Closed” signs.

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“Seriously?!” we bemoaned. We’d been going every Wednesday for three weeks and now it’s gone? UGH. Such is life in ever-changing NYC, where gentrification and ever-rising rent prices push out even the oldest establishments. This has happened not once, not twice, but THREE times to me. When I first moved here, I remember telling my mom my plans to check out places X, Y, and Z one weekend. “Slow down,” she said. “They’re not going anywhere and you don’t have to explore all of NYC in your first month!” she said. HA! All the places I had mentioned that I was going to check out closed down the exact day that I was planning on going to visit, and now the city had claimed another victim. Maybe it’s me and my terrible string of bad luck, but my advice to new New Yorkers is EXPLORE THE ENTIRE CITY IN YOUR FIRST MONTH, because it might be gone the next day.

In any event, the death of Winegasm meant that we were on the lookout for some new places to drink and unwine(d) mid-week so that we could get through Hump Day and sail smoothly into the weekend. We checked out several places throughout the city and in my neighborhood of Astoria, but inevitably found ourselves drifting down to the Lower East Side more often than not.

If you find yourself in what was once one of New York’s sketchier neighborhoods, now turned grungy hipster “gritty-chic” graffiti haven (that’s a thing, right?), I recommend popping into one of the following places for a drink. Or maybe three, who’s counting? Each one has a totally different vibe and will be a unique experience depending on what you’re looking for (another reason I love the LES – so much variation!).

First up on the list and a repeat offender because the cocktails are so creative:

Death & Company (433 East 6th Street, b/w 1st & A)

 

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Image Credit: https://www.thrillist.com/node/18247

Hidden behind a barely-marked door, I almost definitely walked past Death & Company the first time I came here, just missing the small wooden plaque with the establishment’s name carved into it. An elegantly dressed lady was standing outside and I honestly thought she was just waiting for somebody, but when I tried to go in she stopped me at the door, asked me for my name, and wrote down how many people I was waiting for.

Death & Co has a strict “only seated when your full party arrives” policy, as they tend to fill up quickly and seating is limited, but I was able to sweet talk her into letting me sit inside at the bar while I waited for my friend to arrive. She opened the door and I walked in to the pitch black interior. It took my eyes a minute to adjust to the complete darkness, as the only illumination besides the dim back-lighting of the bar are tiny candles placed around the room and on the bar tables.

Death & Co has a highly original menu of assorted craft cocktails combining traditional flavors with unique variants. I would definitely recommend the Hawaii Five-O (Tanqueray gin, rum, macadamia, passionfruit, lime, hopped grapefruit bitters), the Side Eye (tequila, mezcal, sour apple, strega, ginger, lime, celery bitters), or the Wing & Prayer (Jean-Luc Pasquet Pineau des Charentes, gin, lemon, Don’s mix, angostura, and absinthe).

They have delicious bites and small plates – one of the better menus I’ve seen. I can’t wait to try their fried cauliflower, and I’d pair any of the above drinks with their truffled popcorn, candied nuts, crispy fries, or cheddar cheese curds (to die for, if you’ll excuse the pun).

Beetle House (308 E. 6th Street)

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As a long time fan of all of things Halloween and Tim Burton, I’d heard of Beetle House, but had yet to make the sojourn down to this part of the city – mostly because not everyone is as big a fan of creepy goth/horror accoutrements as me. Thankfully, my Wine Wednesday partner was more than excited to check out the place when we passed by it on our way back from Death & Co, when we quickly decided to make it the following week’s Wine Wednesday destination. As you can see, there is clearly a sinister pattern we started developing…

Sinister or no, Beetle House was definitely fun in a toned-down yet kitschy sort of way. There was a large bar with Tim Burton themed decorations everywhere (nightmare before Christmas, Beetle Juice, etc.) and even a roving Sweeny Todd who brandished an old-fashioned razor and kept trying to entice us to “try his meat” (I passed).

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The weird thing about the Beetle House is that you have to make a reservation to eat there (even though there weren’t that many people), and you have no other option but to do their prix-fixe menu, which includes an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert (with different pricing levels based on which “tier” of food you want). It’s not terribly expensive, but combined with a drink it would add up quickly. And I don’t always want dessert or an appetizer. Scratch that – I always want dessert but I don’t always need dessert. It would be much better if they offered you the option of choosing things a la carte, but since that’s not in the cards, I would suggest doing what we did if you don’t feel like going all in on a meal: give up a table for a couple of stools at the bar and order some appetizers.

For whatever reason, this was one of those Wine Wednesdays where we got totally and unintentionally #turnt. Maybe it was the cocktails, which were mostly straight alcohol and super strong, or the fact that we ordered our appetizers too late, but after one drink I was feeling pretty good. My favorite drink was The Beetle’s Juice (Muddled blackberry and limes, Tequila, Blackberry schnapps, Angostura bitters, splash of cranberry), but The Nine (Absolut Citron, sour apple pucker, Midori, triple sec, Green apple sugared rim) was a close second. At this point I ordered chicken and cheese quesadillas with guacamole, and capped it off with a dessert cocktail – the Chocolate Chocolate martini (Vanilla vodka, Dorda chocolate liqueur, cream, creme de cocoa, garnished with a chocolate bar). It’s becoming a bit clearer why this was one of our wilder Wine Wednesdays…

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While the food was good and the drinks unique, points off for the weird prix-fixe rule and the slightly sloppy presentation – they “ran out” of the green apple sugar rim (which looked like it had been sitting at the bar for a while) and my dessert cocktail was NOT garnished with a chocolate bar (not that I’d needed it, but…).

I would definitely come back and bring guests though because the drinks were really tasty, the bar tenders/staff were friendly, and I love a good Halloween-themed spot any time of year!

Bibi (211 E. 4th St. b/w A & B)

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Bibi is the cutest little wine bar you ever did see. I met up here with a friend who I hadn’t seen for a while and it was the perfect spot to catch up over a glass of wine. For starters, it was an intimate venue, kind of quiet and tucked away with dim lighting (but not so dim you couldn’t see), nice music (but not so loud you couldn’t hear) and enough people to make you feel pleasantly surrounded but not suffocated.

They also have great happy hour specials – we split a bottle of red wine for $22 and passed a pleasant evening in conversation and good company.

Bibi would be a great place for a girl’s night or a date night, and it wasn’t super busy. I could see myself returning here, even on a solo venture with a good book, to check out some more wine from their insanely-expansive menu, as well as the ever-tempting S’more-in-a-Jar and Pigs in a Blanket.

Lois (98 Loisada Ave)

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I am almost hesitant to share Lois because it is my favorite of all of the places I’ve shared so far and definitely a hidden gem. But really, word should get out so it doesn’t suffer the fate of Winegasm et. al. I’m really sharing this for selfish motivations.

Lois is a beautiful little wine bar in Alphabet City (so-named for the North-South running Avenues A, B, C, & D in the Lower East Side). It’s a bit of a trek to get there – about 10-15 minutes walking distance from the nearest subway, meaning you probably aren’t too likely to stumble upon it unless you happen to already be in the area. This is great, because while there have always been people – which creates a nice sort of buzzy atmosphere – I’ve never felt claustrophobic while here.

Lois (so-named because of its location right where Avenue C turns into Loisada) is unique for a few different reasons. First of all they don’t serve bottles; instead, all of their wines come on tap – 16 different kinds, to be exact. You can either order by the glass, or by one of their three different sized carafes. They also do not accept tips, as tipping is built into the price – so when you see that it’s $14 for a small carafe, you can be sure that you’re only shelling out $14. Maybe it’s the part of me that’s on a budget, maybe it’s the part of me that still lives in Europe, but I love this about Lois.

If that isn’t enough to convince you, the fact that they will let you sample as many wines as you want before committing might.  Or that during Happy Hour, any size carafe you order is accompanied by a small cheese and cracker plate of your choosing.

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In terms of atmosphere, Lois is bright and airy. Both times I’ve gone, the front door and windows of the restaurant were completely open to the street, letting in a slight breeze, sounds of the quaint outdoor street, and allowing optimal views for people watching. The bar is also one of the comfiest I’ve ever sat at, with large, cushioned seats and plenty of space. Their menu, while compact, is carefully crafted and has ample opportunities for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike (Avocado Arepa, Lemon Baked Eggs, and Kale flatbread? I’m in).

Of course Wine Wednesday isn’t always this fancy, just as it isn’t always wine. Occasionally it’s Wineless Wednesday iced cold brews and grilled cheese sandwiches at Queens Kickshaw in Astoria, or a bottle of wine shared at my apartment while laughing loudly to old Kristen Wiig SNL skits. Who knew the worst day of the week (besides Tuesday, Monday’s ugly sister) could be so much fun? 😉

Cheers!

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The Guys You Date After a Breakup

There’s the guy you meet when you first get back from your post-breakup trip to Europe. He’s 36 and totally your type, older and scruffy and well-dressed and has a quirky sense of humor. He played guitar and liked to paint and lived in Greenwich village and had a sweet black and white pup named Maggie. He didn’t drink and he smoked cigarettes and he had a good smile and a certain nonchalance. We exchanged the typical pre-date flirty banter at first, the kind that gets you excited and gives you butterflies, before setting a date and arranging to meet up for coffee. He texts you every day, the sweet good morning texts that make you smile to know someone is thinking about you first thing in the morning. He sends you pictures of his dog and sound bytes of songs he wrote, and even writes a song for you which he records and sends to you over iMessage. He seems less interested in the conversation and what you have to say, and more interested in trying to get you to say something dirty. His requests for endless selfies start to annoy. They get more aggressive. You meet up for coffee and he doesn’t pay for your cappuccino. You can’t remember your ex ever letting you pay while you were on a date, and it makes you kind of sad. You actually connect over good conversation, and share some intimate personal stories with each other. He walks you to the subway and you go in for a hug – but he sweetly kisses your cheek in a way that makes you wish you’d have let him actually kiss you. After you descend underground he immediately texts you that he wishes you’d have let him kiss you. You agree, but then think that if a guy can’t even buy you a cup of coffee he doesn’t deserve a kiss. You talk all day though, and even when he goes out of town to Vermont for a few days. He calls you on the phone one night to chat and you keep texting until you’re fed up with the sexual innuendos and inappropriate conversations. It’s too much too soon. You break it off after a week and he responds kindly and respectfully. You wonder how he’s doing from time to time.

There’s the guy who invites you out for drinks in midtown on a Friday night. You normally hate midtown but you know the bar and the drinks are good so you agree. He talks fast and talks a lot and talks mostly about himself. You can never really answer any of his questions before you get cut off. Your answers simply seem to be a conduit through which his stories are given reason to be told out loud. His job is boring, his upbringing is somewhat typical, but he’s from DC and went to college in Pittsburgh so you talk about your common connections to both places. He works in finance and makes sure to let you know about his apartment on Columbus Circle. Despite this, you actually have a fun time on the date. Maybe because you’re three cosmopolitans in and anything can be fun after three cosmos. He goes to the bathroom and leaves you at the bar. Three other guys start talking to you while you wait. He immediately comes over and puts his hand on your back and asks if he can give you a kiss. His mouth tastes like peppermint – he must have planned this moment when he went to the bathroom. You’re kind of turned off by this. You change venues (and switch to Diet Coke) before he walks you to the subway. You kiss again. It’s not great, but you had fun anyways so you agree to a second date.

He reschedules your second date. You’ve dated people who work in finance/work in a finance office yourself, so you know how it goes. Before your second date, you’re feeling a little nervous. Not because you’re overly excited, but because your under-enthusiastic. You don’t really want to go and you’re not super attracted to the guy, but you’ve already committed. He takes you out for oysters in the East Village and then you go to UCB for a terrible third-rate comedy show. You don’t laugh. You’re ready to go home. You don’t really care if you never see him again. This time, he doesn’t walk you to the subway station. He suggests a movie-night-in as your third date, then disappears off the face of the earth and you never hear from him again. You couldn’t care less – actually, you’re relived. You cry on your walk to the nearest train station – your ex never would have made you walk to the train station by yourself. Hell, your ex always walked you to your front door.

There’s the guy you meet for a drink in your neighborhood – the date who is convenient and nearby and doesn’t require much investment. You have a good time but you’re not super attracted and he comes off as quite cocky. He tells you how much fun he has and how interested he is, and follows up via text to tell you that he “[doesn’t] normally reach out like this, but I wanted to express my interest…”. You have already decided you’re not into him. You don’t follow up.

There’s the guy you meet through mutual friends – this date is kind of a setup. You worry it will make things awkward if it doesn’t work out. Actually, you’re pretty sure it’s not going to work out. You were at a party and told your friend “he’s cute!” after having one too many glasses of chardonnay. Your friend doesn’t realize you are the biggest flirt in the world when you are drunk. Sober you realizes your mistake and confirms that you’re not attracted, but your friend has already put the gears in motion. He asks you out to dinner and you agree to give the guy a chance – what have you got to lose? – only to have the dinner somehow become lunch and a Broadway musical. No, I’m not talking about Off-Broadway; I’m talking about 6th-row center orchestra seats at $200 a pop for the new hit musical Anastasia. Combined with lunch and drinks, you realize this guy spent $500 on a first date. You are extremely flattered and also extremely guilt-ridden; you knew this wasn’t going to turn into a second date. While you are on the date, you think about how this would’ve been the perfect anniversary date, and it reminds you that in just under a month, you and your ex would have celebrated your one year anniversary. In the middle of a love song, you start to tear up. You glance over at your date and hope he doesn’t notice. You part ways and hear from him sporadically but kind of avoid making plans. You hope that it won’t be awkward next time you go out with friends.

There’s the guy who flakes out while you are in the middle of getting ready for your date – offering to meet you two hours later instead of the original time because of a work party. You tell him you’re booked solid for the next few weeks but best of luck. You think about how you used to get mad at your ex for being late all the time. You wonder if you were too harsh.

There’s the extremely boring guy who talks about all of his travels and bro friends and eating pot brownies with his sister at a concert. He brags about his “amazing” job (in finance, of course) and his “amazing” apartment in Williamsburg (gag), then asks you to split the check at dinner. You decide he’s a walking cliche and wonder why you keep giving finance guys a shot. You cry again on your way to the subway, this time the tears falling even harder. Your ex would never have asked you to split the check. When he texts you twice, you decide not to ghost and instead tell him that you’re not “feeling it” and that in future if he hopes another girl will “feel it” he’ll man up and pay for the first date. You block his number and delete your message thread.

There’s the last guy you’ll date before you decide to take a break. He’s exactly your type – tall, dark, seemingly mature, and handsome – in fact, incredibly handsome. You’re smitten and the chemistry is electric. He’s 38 and twice-divorced and has two kids. “He’s everything your ex was not,” a friend will tell you. You know this will never work and yet…you’ve never been so immediately attracted to someone. Or maybe you have and it’s just been a while. You want to ride it out. He takes you to the Rubin Museum and then out for Thai food once you both realize it’s 9:30pm. On the walk home, you make out on the street before finding a more secluded spot in Union Square Park. It’s 1am. You go home. You already have a second date lined up for the next morning before he has to leave the following night to go see his kids in Philly. You ignore the last bit. He’s sweet and consistent and texts you every day and even calls, but you don’t get to see him much. He spends a lot of his weekends going to visit his kids. He tells you how much he likes you, how he is incredibly attracted to both your looks and your personality, how he wants to “take you off the market.” He talks about a future, plans outings to the beach, the Highline, Chelsea Market, sushi crawls. Yet you’ve been “seeing each other” for a month and have only been on three dates; you know that he’ll never have the time to do it. The reality of the situation smacks you like a ton of bricks. You don’t even LIKE kids. You break it off with him and never hear back. You realize he was never worth it anyways, and you’re not all that sad. Somehow, this guy made you miss your ex the most.

There’s the guy you’ll see walking up the other side of the street as you’re walking down, a few quick blocks away from your apartment. You do a double take – your heart literally stops. Your hands start shaking. It’s your ex. You think he sees you but you’re not sure. You turn the corner and keep walking to your apartment, but you wish you could go up to him and tell him how much you’ve missed him. You wish you could go up and tell him you wish things had worked out differently. You wish you could tell him that despite your problems, he set the standard for a boyfriend pretty high; you wish you could tell him that despite everything, you still love him.

Birthday Shenanigans in the Lower East Side: Rosé, Rap, and Really Good Pizza

It’s been almost three weeks since my last post, and I hate to get so far behind, but it’s all been for good reason – I’ve been enjoying the hell out of summer! For starters, I took the Megabus to Pennsylvania for the Fourth of July – the first time since Christmas that I’ve been home with my family (side note: what in GOD’S name was I doing taking the Greyhound from the hell hole that is Port Authority before? Megabus is infinitely better, shout out to my wing woman for bringing it to my attention). It was nice to do absolutely nothing (like literally nothing…I read and ate food and watched movies and lived in my PJs for 5 days), be taken care of, and catch a break from the city for a bit. This year especially so, as the end of June/beginning of July was a bit of rough patch emotionally for me. My boyfriend and I would’ve celebrated our one year anniversary on July 2nd, and our second date (and one of my favorites) was on July 4th last year; I think it would have been too painful for me to stay in the city this year, so it was perfect to retreat to the country for a bit.

In any case, returning from the Fourth of July brought me back to a two-day work week, followed by a Saturday full of day drinking at my friend’s loft in Brooklyn (like literally killing a bottle or two of rosé and a 6-pack of Coronas from 4pm to midnight….), and a Sunday brunch with my favorite blogging couple over at Queen’s Comfort! (If the Egg McRuffin – an English muffin topped with four different melted cheeses, bacon, fried egg, chives, and a side of tater tots – isn’t enough to entice you out to Queens, the Donut Diva’s strawberry nutella cake donut will).

Throw in a few wine dates, coffee dates, dinner dates, and museum dates, and the weeks just flew right by me, bringing us to last weekend, when I celebrated my 27th birthday.

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Smorgasburg: Brooklyn’s Most Famous Outdoor Food Festival

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Brooklyn, you sly dog, you. Luring me down to your hipster-y shores yet again with the promise of a veritable feast of foods unknown, satiating both curiosity and #hanger at the fabled foodie outpost that is Smorgasburg.

If you’re a New York local, you’ve probably been to or at least heard of Smorgasburg. Heck, I’d heard about Smorgasburg before I even moved to New York and immediately added it to my bucket list. Somehow it had always managed to elude me, so when a friend suggested we check it out over the weekend, I was all for it – until one of my coworkers – the friendly office curmudgeon from Long Island – asked me what I was doing over the weekend.

“Smorgasburg? That thing down in Brooklyn?” he replied, smacking on his gum with his Long Island accent. “Oh, it’s disgusting.”

“Disgusting? Well thanks for that, you’re really hyping it up…now I can hardly wait….”

“No, I mean it’s awesome. But disgusting. Don’t eat before going. Plan on clogging your arteries. Try one of everything. You will leave feeling disgusted with yourself but it’s worth every calorie.”

Still not quite sure what to expect, I did some research. It can’t be THAT bad if Mario Batali calls it “The single greatest thing I’ve ever seen gastronomically in New York City,” right?

Absolutely right.

Open every Saturday from April through November, Smorgasburg in Williamsburg is a veritable food experience, boasting anywhere from 50-75 different vendors selling an array of delicious, different, experimental, sometimes-downright-weird foods from all over the globe (or at least from all over New York).

After deciding that we were going to sleep in and wake up without alarms, we agreed to meet off the L train’s Bedford Ave stop at 1pm to walk over together to Smorgasburg, located on the waterfront along the East River and offering “unparalleled” views of Manhattan – or so they would be if not for the second coming of The Great Flood in which Noah and his ark apparently bypassed the gluttonous heathens of Williamsburg, leaving them to drown in their own self-induced food comas.

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Since the weather in New York took full advantage of the “30% chance of light rain” to 100% drench the streets with a downpour rivaling scenes from The Day After Tomorrow, we took full advantage of the fact that we were already there/soaked to stroll through the venue and order whatever we wanted–with almost NO LINES. Almost. If you have ever been to NY, you know that the most popular fads/trends/tourist attractions ALWAYS have a line, until they are no longer popular/trendy. My unsuccessful 3-hour wait in the line at to literally abandon the line WITHOUT product in hand is proof of the absurdity of this city and its inhabitants (an experience I will not likely repeat; smuggling bottles of sparkling sangria to enjoy with my friends while we waited in line…that, of course, I have no qualms repeating ;)).

In any event, we were happy to peruse the stalls before diving right in with our first tasting:

Truffle Fries from Home Frite

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@lizkim83, taken from Instagram. It was raining too hard to take our own picture of this one!

Crispy-as-chips hand cut fries tossed in Parmesan-garlic truffle oil and served with a side of aioli dipping sauce….’nuff said. Even though this was the most conventional, it was probably my favorite thing that we tried and I would wait in a line 10 times as long to get (my own) cone.

It was still pouring when we got these, so we kind of hobbled over to a table and took turns holding the fries/an umbrella/relishing in the deliciousness before us. I swear to god these were the most delicious, crispiest french fries I have ever eaten. It may have been raining around us, but under those umbrellas there was nothing but sunshine…and afterwards, an overpowering thirst. Which led us to our next destination…

John’s Juice

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@rjrichardson90

John’s Juice is a fun, slightly (okay totally) overpriced way to get your healthy fruits and stay hyrdated on a warm summer day. We both wanted to try their passion fruit juice, but this wildly popular drink was sold out, so we settled for a pineapple juice and a watermelon juice. At this point the rain had mostly stopped, so we were able to watch the workers in the back of the stand hull out different fruits, blend the flesh with an immersion blender, and pour it into containers held in ice-cold coolers before repouring it back into said hulled-out fruits. We both remained purists – no additives or anything, just 100% juice. While a little gimmicky (and definitely would have been better with the addition of some vodka or – Malibu!), it certainly quenched our thirst after salting up on some fries.

After our appetites were properly whetted (and that’s not the only thing that was wet…seriously, my shoes are still drying…), it was time for the main course:

Baguettes from Raclette

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Imagine a giant wheel of cheese being heated up to the melting point, then scraped onto a hot and toasty baguette spread with Dijon mustard and sprinkled with baby gherkins and green onions, than slathered with another schmear of melted cheese for good measure. If the thought itself (or the above picture) doesn’t instantly transport you to Europe, one bite of this brilliantly-simple yet delicious baguette will do the trick.

Which leads me to my final treat, the dessert-to-cap-off-all desserts:

Churro Ice Cream Sandwiches from Dulcinea

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I’m not really a huge churro fan (they’ve always been kind of overrated/bland to me), but if these were the very first churros I had ever tried, I’d have been hooked from the start.

Back right: Peanut Butter Toasted Banana ice cream topped with a layer of nutella and rolled in cookie crumbles

Front left: Salted Caramel ice cream topped with a layer of caramel sauce and rolled in cookie crumbles.

Verdict: Unreal

Devoured in: Approx. 90 seconds (give or take 10 seconds)

This post honestly doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the stuff offered at Smorgasburg. In between some of the more conventional stuff, you’ll find an array of crazy confections such as the famous raindrop cake, sushi burritos, korean bbq, ramen burgers, and even spaghetti donuts:

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I kid you not – these were “flavors” of spaghetti formed into the shape of a donut – disgusting even for a self-proclaimed lover of donuts AND Italian food. After I sent this picture to a friend in Italy, he responded “We Italians don’t like this…please don’t send us any more pictures of them.” Agreed, my friend. Agreed.

To find out what else Smorgasburg has to offer, you can check out their official site for information on hours, location, and different vendors.

Oh, and the office curmudgeon? He was right. I didn’t touch food for the rest of the day…but I DID walk 13,000 steps according to my friend’s pedometer, so…it all evens out in the end 😉

Happy Feasting!

 

9 Lessons I’ve Learned in My Post-Breakup Life

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It’s been almost three months since I broke up with my ex. Well, two months if you count what I call the “One Week of Insanity” where I backslid into the ecstasy and misery of a reunion with a person who is clearly not right for me, only to have the sense slapped back into me by a good friend who pointed out the well-known definition of insanity (hence the nomenclature). Or maybe it’s almost four months since the first time I tried, unsuccessfully, to break up with him – something I’ve only mentioned to a few people. So Hello, World! Welcome to the unfiltered version that you didn’t see on Instagram. And if we’re being really honest here, it’s been about six months since the first time “maybe this isn’t right. Maybe I should end this now” crossed my mind. Try coming back from THAT one. I did, and failed miserably.

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The truth is, breakups suck, and working up the courage to actually initiate something that you know in your heart of hearts is the right thing to do is a process. You don’t just get there over night – not if you genuinely care for the person. I remember the days and moments, usually after a horrible fight, where I felt frozen; I couldn’t move my lips to bring myself to say the words that would finally end things, even when I was screaming them inside of my head; all I wanted to do was leave his apartment or send him away from mine, retreating so I could escape the tears and and the misery, the inability to express myself to someone who didn’t get me, who couldn’t make me feel safe or heard or understood.

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In any event, the following three two four six I give up months post-breakup have taught me so much about myself that I am actually grateful for the process. And while I wouldn’t wish a breakup on anyone – not even on my ex – I do appreciate that it is an excellent learning tool. Some people turn bitter or resentful, spiting the person they left/who left them, or refusing to realize that a failed relationship is a two-way street. We both bear some of the responsibility for why things didn’t work out. Others take the opportunity to work on themselves, to love themselves, and to find ways to become happy within themselves.  I’ve certainly learned things and grown in ways that I wouldn’t have were it not for the agony of putting the pieces of my heart back together.

So without further ado, a few of the things I’ve learned in the last few months as I navigate heartbreak and singledom as a twenty-something in New York City:

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A Mutable Feast: Street Art in Brooklyn at the Bushwick Collective

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Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time in Brooklyn. This should come as a surprise to most of you, as I’m not exactly shy about my aversion to New York’s “hippest” borough. Part of said aversion stems from the fact that, like vegans and marathon runners, people who live in Brooklyn are usually apt to tell you within sixty seconds of meeting them how they live in a converted warehouse loft apartment near a great bodega and a bar that serves “uh-mazing” Scandinavian-Indian fusion small plates. I mean no offense to my Brooklynite friends, who are some of my favorite people in New York and don’t generally announce their Brooklynness to anyone who will listen, but they are usually the exception and not the rule.

The second reason I haven’t spent much time in Brooklyn is related to the fact that when I first moved here nearly two years ago, I was so fresh-off-the-boat to New York that I still thought Times Square was cool. I voluntarily chose Starbucks over the other myriad (and infinitely better) coffee houses. I thought Central Park was the *only* park worth visiting. I didn’t venture further north than 100th street or farther east than 5th Avenue. I was a total obnoxious cliche newbie who was too busy exploring the island of Manhattan, and even then in a limited (read: midtown) scope…I didn’t have time for Brooklyn.

Furthermore, travel between the outer boroughs is a nightmare – it can take me up to an hour and half to get to some parts of Bushwick (which in theory is like, 6 miles away) because the trains from Queens only go west into Manhattan, where you have to change to another line heading east and south into Brooklyn.  The MTA can’t even extend one subway line north four stops without spending millions of dollars in too many years on a two-part project, so seamless inter-borough travel is nothing but a pipe dream – it probably won’t ever happen in my lifetime. Not to mention the fact that for the last year I was dating someone who *also* hated hipster haven – which gave me even less incentive to go.

Have I given enough reasons for my dislike of Brooklyn yet?

In any case, recent events have sent me into New York’s trendiest neighborhood on a few different occasions, and I have to say…I’m warming up to the borough. Partly because of some amazing summer weather that was just begging for an adventure, but mostly because I saw my blogger friends’ (Lynn & Justin over at Mad Hatters NYC) amazing post about the Bushwick Collective, I decided to brave the L train and check it out myself.

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My Big Fat Italian Wedding (and everything in between)

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It’s finally the weekend (this week has been THE longest) and I’m back in action after a three week break! It feels good to be back in the writer’s seat…though admittedly not as good as the Mediterranean sun on my face for two weeks (yeah yeah, I’m allowed to brag just a *little*).

It’s been an interesting first week back in the city – I returned last Sunday night at 9pm and essentially stumbled out of clothes into pajamas and onto bed by 9:30…which meant the inevitable 2:30AM wake up, tossing and turning until I gave up at 6AM and decided to get out of bed (or at least check the socials for an hour under the covers). This week has been lacking in sleep but loaded with activities – something I’d purposefully planned so that I could avoid the inevitable post-vacation-blues. I resumed Tuesday trivia, Wine Wednesday, started a new kickboxing class on Thursday, and even went out on a date on Saturday before heading out to Brooklyn to check out the graffiti art at Bushwick Collective (post on that forthcoming).

It’s going to be impossible to try to recap an entire 16 days worth of vacation stuff in a single blog entry, so I think the best approach is to try to sum up the feeling of the trip by sharing some of my key takeaways from the experience.

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Where to Go for Coffee in NYC

I promise this post will be about coffee, but first, a short story.

Exactly four years ago almost to the day, my best friend came to visit me for 10 days in Italy as a college graduation present to herself. That trip has inevitably been filed away as “one of my favorite life memories/something that will be hard if not near impossible to duplicate because when are we going to be young and free and have unfettered time, money, and minimal commitments again?” We traveled through the country, made some amazing memories, ate delicious food, and of course conversation with one of the people who gets me most in this world was never dull and always uplifting.

Turns out, we would have those things four years later – and completely unexpectedly.  I say unexpected because my two week trip to Italy and Greece was a trip I had originally planned with my now-ex-boyfriend.  Suffice it to say, I took lemons and made limoncello in the form of two weeks in Europe with my bff. This could not be more ideal.

I’ll be on blog hiatus for the next two weeks, but before I go to the land where the cappuccino was invented, bask in the the basilicas of Rome and the Athenian acropolis, and eat ALL of the pizza/gelato/baklava/melomakarona, I felt it was appropriate to leave those of you staying in NYC (in this finally amazing weather!) with a few local places to check out, on which this certified caffeine addict and coffee snob gives her seal of approval. Ranked in descending order, because I always save my favorite for last…

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What I Learned by Hosting My First NYC House Party

What a weekend! No, I’m not talking about this next one coming up, though I am looking forward to it.  I’m talking about last weekend, when I threw my first ever house(warming) party in the Big Apple!

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Actually, this was the first house party I’ve thrown pretty much anywhere.  It might seem strange coming from a twenty-something, as I’m sure most of my peers have hosted and attended such parties their whole early-adult lives, but for me, I’ve never lived anywhere long enough to feel at home hosting a party – and if I didn’t feel at home, it seemed kind of phony-a-la-Holden-Caulfield to host a housewarming.  I never planned on staying in Malibu when I graduated college. As an expat on a student visa in Italy, I always knew in the back of my mind that one day I would be leaving.  New York is the first city I’ve lived in for the last 10 years where I’ve felt like I am finally putting down permanent roots. I intend to stay here for the foreseeable future, and though I am no psychic, my time in the city that never sleeps is, at the moment, indefinite. It only felt right to celebrate my first REAL, significant move surrounded by the new (and old!) friends that I’ve made over the last 20 months.

Of course, if you’ve ever read my spirit animal Mindy Kaling’s book Why Not Me? (which hits close to home for many reasons because Mindy really is my spirit animal), you’ll know that hosting a party in a tiny, cramped NYC apartment comes with its own set of obstacles and challenges and oh-my-god-how-is-everyone-going-to-fit moments.

Thanks to those moments I learned some life lessons last weekend that I hope to carry forward for the next Friday night fête:

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