NYC ~ A Trip with my California Girls

I have to say, I find it quite funny that a majority of my friends located here in New York, either went to school in California or are originally from California.  But more on that later.  This post highlights the adventures from last week with two of my pals whom I have known since elementary school!

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Lindsay (on the left) actually has lived with me for some time, but it was a treat to see Laura (on the right) who happened to be working from her company’s NYC office this week!  The likelihood of us all located in the same place is much higher when that place is New York versus our Southern California hometown.  Strange, right?

PARTY ONE ~ MLK DAY

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Since we all had Monday off, we were able to spend more time together and explore a couple of new places around the city.  I woke up and walked twenty or so blocks to Laura’s hotel, where I waited in a local Starbucks and read the paper.  You know, I have always told myself that I would sit in a cafe and read the paper on a weekly basis but obviously I spend too much time running around that it never happens.

Once we were all ready to go, we headed north along 5th Avenue, popping into various stores and just browsing the windows of others.

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral
5th Avenue, New York, NY 10022

The cathedral (like many other places in New York) looks so much better without all the scaffolding surrounding it.  I still have yet to attend one of its services or even duck my head inside to see what it’s like.  Even though Lindsay and I have found a good church that we enjoy, it would be neat to attend a service at the cathedral.  After all, you seem to get a deeper experience when you attend a service in such a renown and decorated building.  I sure felt that way when I was abroad and attended mass in the Cathedrale Notre-Dame in Paris.

IMG_8118A trip along 5th Avenue is not complete without a trip to Tiffany’s.  It’s quite a treat to walk into the flagship store and browse all the gorgeous jewelry and beautiful blue boxes but no treats for me on this trip.  I’m saving up to visit my sister abroad and have been doing an excellent job so far.

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Walking through Central Park and the zoo (fun fact: I wanted to be an animal trainer when I was little.  A dolphin trainer in particular.  I would braid hair and train dolphins at a resort in Hawaii.  I’m sure my parents are much happier that I grew out of that phase)

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A trip to Lily Pulitzer

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Jumped on the 7 train to ride under the East River into Long Island City

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Tuk Tuk
49-06 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City, NY 11101

There we went to Tuk Tuk, which my manager had highly recommended for lunch.  I’m usually not the biggest fan of Thai, but I think it has to do with the fact that I order the most random combinations of food, not meant to be paired together. Like the time I ordered a vegan hot dog at Pink’s Hot Dogs in LA because I was trying to be healthy.  Yeah, no.  You just don’t do that.  But anyways, I’ve started asking waiters and waitresses about their favorites and what they suggest I order.  I’ve had infinity more success this way.

Not only was the food supposed to be super tasty, but they have a great lunch special, which meant we paid only around $7-9 for our meal.  Brilliant!

IMG_6539Thai iced tea + Pad Gra-Prow
(Stir-fried with a chili basil sauce with basil, onion and bell pepper)

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The recently developed area has an amazing stretch of parks, open space, and place for dogs to frolic and play.  We met up with my manager and her dog Brodie and had a blast watching the pups chase one another.

The rest of the night was spent at our apartment watching the Bachelor.  Oh Farmer Chris.

PART TWO ~ FRIDAY NIGHT

We really didn’t have a chance to hang out the rest of the week but were able to have one last night of fun on Friday.  What’s better on a Friday night than grabbing dinner and dessert with your friends? Forget clubbing, just give me chocolate. 😉 But really.

That morning, I woke up to attend the November Project workout at Morningside park.  Despite the long run and trek with my backpack, it was worth it.  Always is.  Ten hours later and it was time to meet up with Lindsay and Laura for dinner at Kipseys, a relaxed and somewhat contemporary American restaurant on 2nd avenue.

438 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10010
~ General ~ Menu ~ Delivery ~

I started off with a fruity glass of sangria, spilt a very delicious (don’t let the terrible iPhone picture convince you otherwise) appetizer of brussels sprouts and pancetta, and pondered over the options for dinner.

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Again, the iPhone has failed me to capture the tastiness of the event, but believe me when I say the trio combo of sides was absolutely fabulous and a clutch price point.  For $12, I was able to get mac & cheese, spinach, and sweet potato fries.  Lindsay had also ordered mac & cheese for $8 and I’m pretty sure it came out to be the same size.

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Originally we had planned to test out a speakeasy – Please Don’t Tell – but decided otherwise when we realized that we hadn’t made a reservation and miscalculated the location (it’s near Tompkin’s Square Park NOT Union Square).  So, we made a reservation at Max Brenner’s Chocolate Shop for dessert and spent the next 45 minutes wandering Nordstrom Rack.

Did you know that we New Yorkers do not have an actual Nordstrom’s?  Preposterous, I know.  Sure there is Bloomingdales and Saks and Macy’s and all that jazz.  Maybe it’s another sign that west coast = best coast.

Max Brenner’s
841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
~ Home ~ Locations ~ Chocolate Bar ~ Menu ~

IMG_8164While they serve actual meals as well, I would recommend this spot for dessert.  It’s seriously like walking into a world of pure imagination (yes…Willy Wonka for the win).

IMG_8168Both Laura and Lindsay had visited Max Brenner, either here in New York or out in Australia, so I deferred to them on what to order.  The hot chocolate is a must, so we ordered one for the table.We also ended up ordering three different desserts so that we could sample a little bit of everything.  Thank goodness my friends love to share because it’s oodles more fun to order a few dishes and get a taste of everything rather than be stuck with one option.

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~ Churros ~ The Works 1/2 Dessert Pizza ~ Strawberry/Chocolate Crepe ~

This ultimately put me in a sugar/food/chocolate coma and left me with the following thoughts:

Oh my goodness, this is like out of Willy Wonka.  Hm, what to order.  I’m a bit overwhelmed.  So much to order. This is so exciting!  (Food arrives)  We dive in like a pack of wolves.  Just kidding (maybe).  I’m sure any guy would swoon. 😉

(Still working on the food)  Thank goodness we didn’t go here for dinner.  Hm, we are all slowing down.  Do I still like chocolate?  Must finish.  Clean plate club.  Oh boy, this is going to hurt tomorrow.  Shoot, this hurts now.  Ok, almost there.  Wow, never eating chocolate or sweets or sugar again.  I’ll start a juice cleanse, yes good idea.  (Meanwhile get a text from our other friends in the city asking to meet up for hot chocolate the next day)  Ok maybe no juice cleanse just yet.  Oh boy, this feels like a hangover.  So worth it.

We stuck around for a bit, said our goodbyes, and then called it quits for the night.

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Dining at NYC’s Quality Meats

A couple weeks ago, I was lucky enough to have dinner with my dad while he was in town for business.  We actually met up twice – once to see the musical “If/Then” and another for a nice dinner at Quality Meats.  Oh.My.Gosh.  This may have very well been one of my favorite dinners, especially with my dad.  The location we went to was off of 58th, between 5th and 6th avenue and had a very upscale, yet rustic feel about it.  Too many steakhouses end up being too dark to see what’s around you – a little sketchy if you ask me.   Between the wooden tables and tiles on the walls, it was just the way a comfortable steak house should feel.

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My family has always been interested in the food industry and over the years we have been able to test out a number of different and often unique restaurants.  One of my grandfathers actually worked in the food business with Lawry’s Seasonings and was involved with the Prime Rib restaurants, so we tend to gravitate towards the steak and seafood genre of restaurants.

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The big debate always becomes, do we go fish or steak?  Fish for heart health or meat for some iron since I rarely buy it myself?  Well, when the name of the restaurant actually has “meat” in the title, I guess it’s a sign.

IMG_6976Now how unique is that?  Serving bread rolls right in their pan, hot out of the oven.  The buttery flavor reminded me of my grandma’s famous Thanksgiving rolls, mixed with good ‘ol store-bought Hawaiian rolls.

IMG_6992Fig and cheese appetizer, compliments of the chef and enjoyed by yours truly (TFred isn’t so much of a fig fan, which is completely fine by me)

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We splurged with appetizer of crab and avocado.  Normally my dad would order a Caesar salad to start, so I was so proud of him for going rogue and indulging in a little foodie fun.

IMG_6991Now time for the moment every diner is waiting for…MAIN COURSE TIME!  We decided to split the Porterhouse for two with filet +sirloin. Per my request, we asked for the meat on the medium to medium rare side.  Like other steakhouses, one is instructed to order the main course and then a few sides for the table.  We decided upon asparagus and waffle fries, although I could have gone for some Brussels Sprouts and Yorkshire Creamed Spinach.

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Now, we had our fun in trying something new for our appetizer, so I decided we could go with something classic.  Although, all of those ice cream combinations did sound divine, or at least out of the ordinary.

IMG_6990May not the best lighting but oh my gosh, a chocolate molten cake and frozen yogurt is the best way to end one’s night.  I truly had such a fun time with my dad and I loved catching up.  🙂

Quality Meats
~ Locations ~ Menus ~
57 West 58th Street
New York, NY 10019
(between 5th and 6th avenue)

Some Perks of Work

We may not have endless massages or gourmet food on every corner, but I like to think my job has its perks.  There’s the occasional yoga, kickboxing, and pilates class.  We happen to work right outside Central Park (who could argue with this view?).  Oh, and there are tons of lunch and learns and other activities put on through our parent company, which means learning yes, but free food = better.  With the amount of money from my paycheck that goes to my rent, I live for the free, and often gourmet, lunches.

Williams Sonoma Kitchen - Test

One of my recent favorites was a end of summer grilling tutorial at Williams-Sonoma.  I still stand by the fact that summer is not over until September 28th! So, let the grilling and fruit festivities continue in full force.

When we first arrived, we were greeted with a small cup of mint-limeade granita and a slice of festive flatbread (w/ burrata & figs)

Fig Flatbread

Next up was a tutorial on how to de-backbone a chicken and use a cooking stone.  One could use a stone or brick (cleaned and covered in foil of course) or even the backside of a cast iron skillet.

Williams Sonoma CookHere we have our head chef teaching us how to take the backbone out of the chicken.  Looks fun, right?

While we were listening and learning, we were handed plates of pre-prepared chicken and roasted vegetables to munch on.  Then, a meal would not be complete without some dessert.

Williams Sonoma FoodOn the right was a mighty fine piece of lavender pound cake, topped with berries and vanilla ice cream.  I love how she brushed the cake with some olive oil and threw it on the grew for extra crunch (and flare).

After leaving with a full belly (and ever so ready for a nap…too bad we don’t have napping cubes like Google) I was inspired to check out other cooking classes offered in the city, especially if it comes with a meal as tasty as this 🙂

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients” – Julia Child

The Art of Italian Ice

If you ask me, frozen treats are delectable at any point in the year.  Maybe that’s my California background speaking as we don’t normally encounter the so-called “winter” weather.  Well, back east they like to keep things seasonal, shutting down the Italian ice stores just as the summer months come to a close.  They open up shortly after spring has sprung and welcome in the hungry kids and salivating adults such as myself on a warm spring evening.

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My first experience with east coast ice happened to be in my California hometown when they opened up a ice and custard store called Rita’s.

My cousin happened to be working the store when it first opened, so of course we had to pop in at every chance, just to see him all dressed up in his official garb.  That and there was this lovely little incentive called the family discount.  Well, don’t mind if I do. 🙂

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The pumpkin was divine (as all pumpkin lovers would like to know) but it’s the black cherry that stole my heart.  Really, the chunks of cherry a midst the freshly made ice, just made it to die for.  One can top their treat with a swirl of custard, making the creation a GELATI but I much prefer my custard and ice separate, especially on an overwhelmingly hot day. (Dairy + extreme heat = not appealing)

IMG_4015 Fun little stop in New Jersey when I was with some family friends for the weekend.  Most shops are seasonal on the east coast but this one happened to be open year round.

IMG_4016Again, black cherry is where it’s at.  This time I didn’t mind a bit of custard on top, but that’s probably because it was about 60F outside, unlike my first experience at the end of August when it was blazing hot.

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Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices
(144 East 24th St. New York, NY 10010)

Lucky for me and my summer d.i.e.t. (“did I eat that”) 😉 there are plenty of ice shops around the city.  Ralph’s is a favorite of mine, simply by the fact that I walk past it every day on the way to the gym.  I have yet to purchase anything more than once but a girl can dream.  And dream I do.

The Best Burger In Town

For most people, the fourth of July (and summer for that matter) is synonymous with BBQs and cookouts.  I know most are into the veggie/vegan trends and I even dabble it in all just to understand what people are thinking and feeling.  But when it comes down to the facts, I just love cheeseburgers.

Now I still have a ways to go in this city, but this certainly is going to be a close race for my NY favorite.  In today’s world of green juices, kale obsessions, and soy products, we sometimes need to indulge in the real stuff.  Maybe it’s unhealthy, maybe it’s not.  To me, it’s a little like living on the edge and satisfies a craving.

I was lucky enough to have my dad in town on business and even though he was only free for one night, it gave us plenty of time to chat (me doing most of the talking and not letting him get a word in…typical Kaitlin), catch up, and of course go out to dinner.

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After finishing up my softball game in Central Park, we  made our way over to the west side and started walking up and down Broadway.  I think I’ve adopted a more willy-nilly attitude to food and am fine wandering around to ultimately pick a place to eat.  My dad on the other hand is a man of precision and really likes to have some known quantities.  Not that he doesn’t explore but he definitely likes to have some of his favorites on the menu.  😉

Poor guy was in meetings back to back all day, stuck in a hotel conference room, and running on little sleep.  No fear, Kaitlin’s here to make a foodie decision.

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We had taken a pit-stop around Lincoln Center to take in the surroundings and check some options on Yelp.  There happened to be a P.J. Clarke’s in the area and I had only heard rave reviews about it, so our decision was made.

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Fearing we would have to fight the masses of Lincoln Center and corporate crowds for a table, I was surprised when we were waltzed in and seated right away.  The atmosphere is very much home-style/bar comfort with the wood features and tables and gingham tablecloths.  Yet, there is definitely an edge of upscale dining, which also comes through on the menu.

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TFred went for a Brooklyn Lager, either because it had a great rich taste or he was trying to be thematic with New York.  I debated a beer or a Prosecco drink only to go for my favorite – club soda.  Judging on the fact that spring was almost at a close and the humidity was practically in full force (ok not true…it’s just an adjustment for this CA gal), I was parched and could only fathom water.  Plus, as we discussed on Thursday, I have an addiction (or obsession) to bubbly water.

I had almost debated the Kale Salad + Salmon when I caught myself.  I eat salmon and kale every other night of the week, why order it at a restaurant known for its burgers?   My theory is it’s best to order something the establishment is known for or you cannot make at home.  After all, going out to eat should be a treat. (Note: the word “treat” doesn’t mean it has to be unhealthy – it’s just a treat you don’t have to cook!)

IMG_4971“The Cadillac” – Smoked Country Bacon, American Cheese

IMG_4970B.L.T.E. Burger – Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Lemonaise, Fried Egg

I asked the waiter what the most recommended or requested burger on the menu was.  His response?  “The Cadillac”, hence why it was in quotes.  Since TFred decided to make that his selection, I went with the BLTE- a heavenly portion of beef burger cooked medium rare (my choice) and topped with bacon and a fried egg. There’s something about the St. Joseph roll too that made the burger perfect – soft and doughy texture that absorbed the juice from the burger and yolk from the egg.

Oh boy people, this was well worth what people call a “cheat meal”.  If you ever have the opportunity to order a burger with a fried egg, I highly recommend it.  The two or three times that I have done this at The Counter, I have not been disappointed.

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We continued to chat and catch up and then it was time to make a game time decision – what to do for dessert.  Stay at the restaurant where the NY Cheesecake made for an excellent option, or wander up north to Magnolia Bakery?

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Since we needed some time to digest our meals, we selected the later and soon headed up to the 69th street location.  There we were not only greeted by a wave of cool air but an endless array of baked goods – from cupcakes to blondie bars, from brownies to their famous banana pudding.

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I happened to spot a section with ice cream sandwiches made with blondies and brownies.  We ended up splitting a chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream sandwich, a perfect pairing for a perfect father-daughter date.

P.J. Clarke’s
44 W 63rd St
New York, NY
(212) 957-9700

Other Locations
Third Ave, NY ~ Lincoln Square, NY ~ On the Hudson, NY
Washington, D.C. ~ Woodbury, NY (Fall 2014)
Mario Ferraz, SP ~ Oscar Freire, SP

Mrs. Field Meets the Valley

Cookies.  Chocolate chip cookies.  Nature Valley bars.  What do all these glorious things have in common?  My quasi-experimented recipe – Chocolate Chip Granola Cookies.  Sure I love my regular chocolate chippers but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve graduated to the extra crunch with chocolate chip oatmeal.  Then, with my granola-parfait obsession, I figured why not break the cookie barriers?  I mean, I’ve already conquered the Junk in Da Trunk, so granola should be a seemingly easy addition.  I didn’t want to go into as much of analysis of the chocolate chip cookie as this writer did and pulled a typical Kaitlin – throw all the ingredients together and hope it works out.

The inspiration started awhile back when my mom sent me a torn out recipe of such cookies.  Then let’s add in the fact that I came home from the 2014 Blend Retreat with oodles of trail mix and granola swag, including Nature Valley Granola. SCORE!  I’ve been a loyal Nature Valley customer for over 8 years.

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The sweet and crunchy taste reminds me of high school days and pre-cross country snacks and helped aid many tedious college group projects.  The really helped me get through the group dynamics more than the projects but that’s a story for another day.

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Chocolate Chip-Granola Cookies
~36 cookies

Ingredients

2 2/3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup butter (or coconut oil) softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1.5 cup chocolate (preferably dark chocolate chips/chunks)
1 cup granola
1/2 cup rolled oats

Directions

1. Stir together dry ingredients – flour, granola, salt, and baking soda and set aside. (Preheat oven to 350F while mixing the dough)

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2. In a different bowl mix the butter for about 30 seconds.

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IMG_5070Of course it’s normal to watch TV while baking.   Just don’t get distracted trying to translate the soccer matches from Spanish into English while you are mixing ingredients. 

3. Add in sugar and continue to beat. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined.

IMG_50724. Slowly add in the flour mixture until fully incorporated.

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5. Lastly, add in the chocolate chips.

IMG_50776. Divide up the dough using tablespoons or your own hands.  Separate on a cookie sheet and place in the oven for about 9-10 minutes or until the bottoms of the cookies start to brown.

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7. Cool on a cookie sheet or serve up warm with a beverage of your choice.  I’m partial to a tall glass of milk – regular or almond 🙂
*Cookies can covered at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze up to three months

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I’m almost positive this came from a Rachel Ray recipe, but am not 100% sure as it wasn’t on the tear-out recipe that my mom sent.  Oops.

*Although we were gifted bags of Nature Valley granola, this post reflects my own thoughts on all products