February Photos

February is over, and although it flew by, I think we’ve all had enough of winter. Plus, now we’re about to enter that part of the season where New Yorkers keep expecting it to get warm, but then it doesn’t and we all contemplate moving to San Diego. And then we come to our senses. (Disclaimer: I’ve never been to San Diego but I hear the weather is lovely.)

Anyway, here’s a quick recap of what happened in February, some from the road and some from our home. Guys, we’re nesting! Like grownups! But we’re still immature fun, I swear.

February began with the SuperBowl, and so I made chocolate covered strawberries with white frosting laces (Look, they’re little footballs!)
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We took a quick trip to Washington DC over President’s Weekend to visit some friends. Here’s a DC/NYC skyline juxtaposition taken from the drive home.20130225-220736.jpg

While in DC, I ate some bacon lollipops served on a pitchfork at Founding Farmer’s. Go there. Eat them. Trust me.20130225-220833.jpg

My family came in to visit our new apartment, and on the way home from brunch, my sister and I stopped for a photo by this mural on my block. I feel really hip right now.20130225-220900.jpg

There was a blizzard named after a friendly cartoon fish, and the view from our living room was quite picturesque.20130225-220915.jpg

Last week I helped organize a Social Media Week event for She’s the First, and it was quite a success! Here’s a picture of the cookies we handed out – called “Insta-grahams,” (and made by the amazing Baking for Good) they had pictures of the girls we’ve sent to school printed on them.

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And finally, today Hostel Bookers posted their NYC Street Food Guide, with 50 tips from food and travel bloggers who live in the city, including yours truly! Confession: Matt is the one who introduced me and many others to Freddy on 53rd and Park, so tip #47 should really be attributed to him.

So despite the bitter cold, February was pretty fab. See you all in March!

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A New Orleans Love Affair: The Food

I’ve written extensively about my love for New Orleans (stemming from my original hatred of it), and last week Randi and I headed down with our significant others for an actual vacation (my first non-work trip to the big easy!). There’s lots to tell, but let’s start with the main focus of the trip: the food.

We arrived on Thursday, and the first thing we did was walk over to Cochon, conveniently a few blocks from The Westin. If you like pork, bacon, and/or flavorful, delicious food, this place is for you. If you’re a vegetarian, maybe not so much. But this may have been the best meal we had during the four-day trip. We had to resist the temptation to come back over the next few days. Matt went crazy over the Louisiana Cochon, which they describe as a pork hockey puck. I had the oyster and bacon sandwich and almost died of happiness. Also, we sat directly next to Gina Gershon, and she looked gorgeous. We may have eavesdropped on her conversation. Note: this was not the most exciting celebrity we encountered in New Orleans. On Saturday, Matt SPOKE to Sylvester Stallone. And by spoke, I mean Stallone told him to move and Matt laughed in his face. But a story for another time. Here’s my inconspicuous, paparazzi shot of Gershon:

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The next day, after a breakfast of coffee and beignets at Cafe Du Monde, we had lunch at Johnny’s Po’ Boys. I loved it here because it’s just a no frills, original Po’ Boy shop that’s been around for 60 years. Plus I did a campaign with them for work about a million years ago so I feel a connection to this sweet little hidden shop in the French Quarter.

Dinner Friday night was at August, John Besh’s upscale restaurant. John Besh is a famous New Orleans chef, so I felt like I should experience one of his meals. The food was good, but the atmosphere was way too stuffy for this fun loving, anything-goes kind of city. We all agreed that we preferred the down and dirty, good food without the song and dance restaurants New Orleans is so famous for. Also, they lost our reservation and weren’t very kind about it, so that was annoying. This would be our only slightly disappointing food experience of the entire trip.

Saturday – obviously back to Cafe Du Monde for coffee and beignets. They are SO incredibly delicious every single time.The line is always going to be crazy, but I can’t stress enough how worth it the wait is. Just trust me. Or look:

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We also had a lovely walk from our hotel along the Mississippi River to the cafe each morning. A snapshot from our room with a view:

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Lunch that day was at Willie Mae’s Scotch House, a cab ride away or a long walk from the French Quarter, but again well worth it. You wait outside to go into this plain looking dining room with it’s own historical memorabilia on the walls, and proceed to eat the best fried chicken you’ve ever had in your entire life, no matter where you’re from.

Saturday night was the Krewe du Vieux parade, the official start to Mardi Gras (that story in an upcoming post), but after the parade died down and we’d had enough of the French Quarter we took a cab to the Bywater to check out Matt’s friend’s restaurant, Pizza Delicious. And people, it lives up to it’s name. What started as a telephone-order-only restaurant that had just a takeout window and ran out of pizza every night has expanded to a modern full service pizzeria where you can watch everything that happens in the kitchen as you order your food. The pizzas are amazing, as are the salads, garlic knots and likely everything else on the menu. Locals will tell you it’s the only NY style pizza in Louisiana. If you find yourself at Pizza Delicious, say hi to one of the owners, Greg, and tell him Amy and Matt sent you.

Sunday, our last full day in New Orleans and our last breakfast at Cafe Du Monde, we ate lunch at Parkway because everyone told us they had the best Po’ Boys in New Orleans. When you go, eat the roast beef and/or the shrimp. Randi and I split both, and even though we both liked the shrimp better, it’s worth it to try the roast beef po’ boy that made them famous.

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Our last meal in New Orleans was at Sylvain. It’s hard to eat in this city on a Sunday because so many restaurants are closed, but luckily we were able to get a table at Sylvain around 9:30. It was lovely eating in their beautiful outdoor area (especially since it was January,) but we were so full from that afternoon’s po’ boy excursion that Randi and I couldn’t even eat our entrees – the slow cooked pork sandwiches that looked oh so delicious. We did eat plenty of appetizers that we loved, mostly the beef belly and the brussels sprouts. The service here was excellent and we drank some fantastic wine. I’d like to go back here when I have more of an appetite.

There were so many other restaurants we wanted to try, but four days in New Orleans just isn’t enough. And even more days if you include my previous trips to the city. Guess we’ll just have to go back!

Fall Adventures

Like many of you, I can’t believe it’s almost 2013! Fall certainly went by in a flash and now its technically already winter. Things have been pretty busy around here, I just returned from an amazing trip visiting family in New Hampshire/Boston, we found a new apartment and are moving in two weeks, right before taking a trip to New Orleans (poor planning on that one huh?), and all the usual jazz. But amidst the chaos, I wanted to take some time to write a very belated post about a fall excursion we took last month.

With no major trips planned this fall, I wanted to do something seasonal and outdoorsy. Matt mentioned there was a park by his parents’ house, which left me a bit skeptical (the parks near my parents’ house on Long Island are nice, but not exactly fall-excursion worthy, more like company picnic worthy). But my skepticism was pushed aside when we arrived at the Croton Dam, only 40 minutes from NYC and so very beautiful.

Apparently this is where New York City gets its drinking water. There’s something about the waterfalls that makes a whole filtration system- I don’t quite understand how it works but my dear friend Joya who works for the New York City department of water would be happy to explain it to you in great detail. From my own perspective, this is a great place to visit if you’re itching to get out of the city for a day, want to do some light hiking but don’t want to travel too far.

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Why Travelers Were Likely To Fare Better in NYC’s Blackout

As most of the world knows, Hurricane Sandy pummeled the East Coast last week, debilitating one of the strongest cities in the world, and in an unprecedented event, lower Manhattan was without power and completely dark for five full days. How did New Yorkers react during this crazy time? Some wandered the streets aimlessly, many camped out with friends who lived in NoPo (North of Power), but many chose to remain in their own homes in the eerily pitch black, post apocalyptic feeling downtown. I was one of those people.


And although I escaped several times to take a hot shower uptown or eat something other than Triscuits, I realized while washing my face with a wetcloth that preparing for a blackout was very similar to preparing for the unknown in travel. And so I bring to you the five reasons travelers were likely to fare better than others when living for almost a week without power:

  1. We have non-perishables: As travelers board a plane to an unkown destination, we don’t know where our next meal is coming from or whether or not it’ll be edible. And sometimes we’re afraid to eat the food served to us in these unknown lands, so we keep a supply of our favorite granola bars on us at all times. Plus we likely have some stocked in a cabinet from the last time we traveled and didn’t plow through our excess supply of larabars.
  2. Our toiletry bag is at the ready: Since we travel often, we have our clear plastic case (full of TSA-approved three ounce bottles!) pretty much at the ready and fully stocked, in case we decide to hop a plan at a moment’s notice (I really wish I did that more often.) So when friends came and rescued us to go have a hot shower at their apartments, we just had to grab our toiletry bag, a clean pair of clothes, and get the hell out of that cold, dark apartment.
  3. We have gear: If you’ve ever gone camping, you likely have a headlamp and/or lanterns. If you’ve ever gone hiking or traveled to a rainforest area, you probably have waterproof shoes and/or boots for walking through puddles and getting through unexpected weather. All of these items came in handy when we were walking around in the dark, sometimes in nothing but our headlamps and all-weather boots.  Just kidding! Sort of.
  4. No cell service, no problem: I’m one of the few people who still does not have an international cell phone, and aside from when I traveled solo to Guatemala, I don’t usually rent one for international trips. Which means the only internet access or communication with loved ones, friends or any part of the outside world comes in the form of a daily trip to a hotel lobby with wifi (or if you’re camping, a trip to the nearby diner.)  Last week was pretty much like that, but instead of being out all day doing interesting things and then coming home to check email, it was sort of reversed: we sat in the cold apartment all day trying to entertain ourselves until we ventured out to get wifi, cell service and communication with others.
  5. The water thing isn’t SO bad: Last week was not the first time I brushed my teeth with bottled water or had to go to the bathroom without flushing. In many parts of Asia and Africa, there isn’t running water, and toilets are basically holes in the ground. While others complained about the issue of not being able to flush, I was at least happy to be in a comfortable “first-world” bathroom. Although I can’t imagine how tough it was for people who were living for five or more days in their homes without running water, let alone those in third world countries who never have access to running water, ever.  I was lucky enough to be weathering the storm with my apocalypse ready boyfriend, who was able to flush at least once a day by dumping gallons of water into the tank.

 

But in all seriousness, these minor inconveniences we had to deal with for a few days was absolutely nothing compared to the devastation some people in our area are still facing. We’ve resume our normal, everyday lives, and for many, that’s not going to be possible anytime soon or ever. My dear friend Jon has done an amazing job organizing a group called the Sandybaggers, comprised of various organizations and volunteers looking to donate supplies and lend a hand to those in need as the recovery efforts begin. If you want to learn more, or find ways you can help out, check out their Facebook page.

Hopefully now that the lights have come back on, we can appreciate the modern conveniences we use everyday and not take them for granted. Now let’s give back to those who need it, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and to those around the world.

Barns and Castles in Connecticut

In the years I’ve known Rebecca, she’s never really done anything traditional. Starting her own nonprofit after grad school, moving around the country multiple times a year, dropping everything for a last minute trip to Kenya, the list goes on. That’s why it came as no surprise when we attended her very unique wedding in a beautiful barn one August evening up in Litchfield, Connecticut. Aside from the picturesque setting, she had small touches throughout the ceremony and reception that incorporated Nest – a green belt across her white dress, hand-painted napkins and handmade stationary as favors, all designed by Nest artisans in India.

After the ceremony, we spent the evening eating freshly made pizza (the brick oven was driven in on a truck!) with ingredients from local farms, catching up with old friends and dancing barefoot on the grass to a bluegrass trio.

The next day we went to a breakfast at the home where Rebecca and her family were staying – and we were absolutely blown away by this place. Called the “Litchfield Castle,” upon entering the grounds you’re transported to a different country and a different time period. It was hard to believe we were in America, in 2012, only two hours away from NYC. Just take a look at the photos.

 

See what I mean? To top it all off, Rebecca and her new husband took a vacation in one of my favorite places – Portugal! Now the happily married couple is back home and back in action as they try to make the world a better place. Congratulations to them both!

Dancing for Peace

Sometimes I love my job. Today is one of those days. I recently had the opportunity to take on a pro-bono client, a New York based organization called Dancing Classrooms, which teaches middle school aged children how to ballroom dance. (Was also the inspiration for the movie “Take the Lead” with Antonio Banderas)

It wasn’t until our third or fourth call that I learned about this amazing project that Dancing Classrooms founder and renowned ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine had created. Dulaine was born in Jaffa, Israel, to an Irish father and Palestinian mother. He took his Dancing Classrooms program over to his birthplace in the middle east, fulfilling his lifelong dream of teaching dance to Palestinian-Israeli and Jewish-Israeli children – together. His program forces the young people to meet each other face to face and work together to coordinate the steps involved in partner dancing. Dulaine had a documentary crew follow four children as they embarked on this program in Israel – you’ll be able to see it soon…but I can’t give away too many details yet.

These children, despite their cultural, religious and political differences, are now being introduced to each other in a way that enables them to work together at a young age. They actually make friends with one another through dance, movement, and cooperation.

Think dancing can save the world?

Me too.