Finally we have come to my last recap of my 8/2-8/5 weekend in NYC for BlogHer ’12. I saved the best for last (obviously…would you expect anything less from me?) and you can catch up below:
- Thursday through Saturday I had lots of fun with BlogHer’s sponsors, and got some pretty sweet swag.
- I ended Friday with my first ever Physique 57 workout, and even went back the next morning for more.
- Friday and Saturday of the conference taught me a lot about blogging, but the whole weekend taught me valuable lessons about myself.
- Before heading home Sunday, I spent time doing pilates and eating Chobani with a blend!
You know me. I’m all about the restaurants. I like to experience new places through food (among other fun activities, but eating/drinking tend to take priority :-D). So how could I go to NYC and not try as many restaurants as humanly possible?! Folks, prepare to get hungry. I may not have been able to make it to BlogHer Food this year, but I turned BlogHer ’12 into my own BlogHer Food.
I had my first ever blogger meetup (with Katie and Danielle) at the Westside location of Josie’s, which was recommended to me via Twitter back in the fall by Web Girl Kathleen of the Elvis Duran Show. After falling in love, I knew I had to go back to try more fresh, healthy food and drink from their menu.
My long-time friend (we go back to middle school…and dates to homecoming freshman year of high school) Hong met me at Josie’s Eastside location for dinner in between working his crazy banker’s hours. It was wonderful to see him again!
Hong got a salad with the same tuna and we both appreciated the way the chef had gotten the outside to be crispy and the inside to be that lovely shade of rare-red. I ended up being too full to finish my side of Josie’s pinto beans, which I ordered last time and adored, but I of course cleaned my plate of all seafood and veggies.
Newbie Breakfast & Fika:
I was concerned that Friday morning’s BlogHer Newbie Breakfast would be a donut-and-muffin fest. While there were no egg whites or turkey bacon present (breakfast items I enjoy both because they make me feel good and energized, and because they don’t have too much of that darn guilt associated with them), I was still able to put together a nice plate for myself…once said plates were finally replenished (chunks of time passed during which several essentials, like plates and fruit, ran out).
Since I’m a coffee snob and former cafe manager (and currently am cafe obsessed), I of course turned my nose up at the Hilton‘s provided coffee and took a quick walk from the hotel to a spot recommended to me by New York blogger Meg of Harmonious Belly during a brunch we met at last fall. Coincidentally, Hong had also mentioned it at dinner the night before and called the cafe, Fika, a “very Caitlin” place. Sold, and such a short distance from the hotel too!
I went with my usual black coffee and wasn’t disappointed; each sip was savored during my sessions that morning. I do wish the staff had been more friendly and appreciative of my enthusiasm over visiting their shop, but hey, it’s New York on a Friday morning. Most of the patrons were regulars and seemed to just wanna get to work and get the day over with.
The line for Friday’s conference lunch and keynote with Martha Stewart was ridonkulous, and I was starving. Wait in line with a rumbling tummy for most likely only-OK conference food? It didn’t take me too long to decide to take matters into my own hands. With Yelp‘s help, I found FreeFoods NYC, a nearby mostly-take-out spot with a Whole Foods-like salad bar of epic, creative proportions.
Deciding between any of the pay-by-the-weight bar’s options was NOT happening, so I picked up a little bit of it all. My favorite was a small slice of raw/vegan pizza on a spelt crust. I felt very New York as I sat in the cafe eating my salad and working on my summer school paper on my laptop.
I had my usual indecision anxiety over this margarita menu…
How to solve such a problem? Order two drinks.
I honestly can’t decide which was my favorite. Both were very Caitlin AKA not at all sweet.
I’m not vegan, but damn do I love vegan food, and that love seems to grow with each vegan dish I put into my body. Again, a fantastic menu of many choices had me indecisive, but I ended up selecting the vegan tacos (tempeh with both wild & tame mushrooms) served with black beans, pico, and plenty more guac.
I polished off everything. The tempeh’s texture was amazing and I love the restaurant’s choice to use corn tortillas. Excellent black beans (made even more excellent when I dipped the leftover blue corn chips into them) and I welcomed the fresh pico and guac.
Of course there had to be an eyebrow-raising photo taken.
What a meal. I’d go back to Agave again in a heartbeat. Too many dishes I haven’t had yet. And my two margaritas had me feeling fine enough to not go into a TOTAL and COMPLETE panic when my phone died before I could even get to the subway station after leaving dinner. #fail
Zibetto Espresso Bar & Conference Lunching:
I used my Yelp app to scout out another cafe just a couple of blocks from the hotel for Saturday morning’s caffeination. Natasha confirmed for me that my choice, Zibetto Espresso Bar, wouldn’t disappoint. I walked in and felt I was truly in Europe! The barista wore a bow tie and the shop was laid out as a long rectangle with standing room only for those who wanted to stay and sip espresso out of tiny mugs on saucers. Zibetto is certainly not a cozy study cafe, but it is one that will transport its patrons farther than they ever thought they’d go when they left their homes on a given day, that’s for sure.
No coffee to be found here…just espresso. The barista was jovial and glad to help me decide on a simple Americano. No dairy or sweetener needed! I enjoyed the espresso’s pure taste and wish it’d lasted longer. Another NYC cafe win!
Thankfully Saturday’s lunch line at the conference was practically non-existent. I’m not sure what made the difference…were more stations set up? Were there just more Friday-only attendees? I was actually quite impressed by the food offerings, and also thought it was pretty funny that almost every tray of watermelon & feta salad set out was almost completely depleted of watermelon, but had plenty of feta cubes remaining.
I didn’t finish all my sandwich buns (they were just blah to me – sandwiches always are made with too much bread at these kinds of events!) but gobbled up everything else. Man I loved those fruit tarts! So fancy shmancy!
Plunge at Hotel Gansevoort, The Standard Plaza, and 5 Ninth:
My most fun foodie experience of the trip spread itself across three spots in the Meatpacking District on Saturday evening. Hong and I love feeling like classy New Yorkers, so we met up at a special destination he’d suggested, the Plunge Rooftop Bar & Lounge at the Hotel Gansevoort. During my commute there, I found out via tweets that Kim Kardashian lived at that hotel with Kris Humphries on “Kourtney and Kim Take New York”. YES, that got me excited. #sorrynotsorry
We miraculously found an open hightop table with a gorgeous view immediately after grabbing drinks at the bar – #jadorelavie, my friends!
See that drink? That’s a Manhattan. It cost $18. When in Rome, my friends. Or when in Meatpacking?
How could I not drink at least one Manhattan while in Manhattan?! How could I not drink it while on a rooftop bar being sooo New York?! Yes I’m aware that I’m a tourist. I’m as far from authentic Carrie Bradshaw as it gets. But at least the bartender was heavy-handed with the bourbon in my expensive drink. I probably only finished about…$15 of it though? It was so strong that I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy a cocktail at our next location if I’d sucked down all $18-worth 😛
I decided to be a responsible foodie/drinkie and order an app to go with my alcohol. Plunge had some really cool and unique items on its menu! I obviously went with the funkiest dish I saw – the BBQ eel sushi. This was my first time having eel. Jeff has raved about it for awhile now and I’m glad I finally got the opportunity to try it. I will be ordering it again!
We walked around to check out our many, many dinner options and decided on The Standard Plaza, which met all the Caitlin Criteria (interesting drinks, unique dishes I’ve never tried before, outdoor seating…you know the drill…I am so high maintenance). The menu consisted of small tapas-style plates, many of which contain seafood! The decor was also quite beautiful.
For drinks we got the Rose Sangria (Hong) and the Cava Fresca (me). Mine was vodka muddled with berries and mint, topped with cava. Loved that ever-so-slight fizz.
This is the only way I can get Hong to look like he enjoys being in photos/likes being near me…feed him drinks.
Unfortunately by the time our food came it was way too dark to take any photos that wouldn’t be a) impossible to make out or b) ugly due to flash. So I opted to go camera-less for the meal itself, and that was actually quite enjoyable.
We ordered three tapas, then realized that four would be way better. The online menu doesn’t have them all but does include these two that we ordered, both of which were fantastic seafood sensations:
- Pez Espada – grilled swordfish, summer squash, peas, castel vetrano olivada
- Gambas – grilled sweet shrimp, chorizo, zucchini, meyer lemon
My usual dessert craving – a delectable sweet something paired with a not-sparkling dessert wine – struck hardcore. We decided to search for a third restaurant for course three, because like I said at the beginning of this post, when in NYC I wanted to experience as much as possible.
After sitting down at one restaurant and immediately getting right back up and leaving once I saw they no longer had any port or sherry (poor, baffled waiter…and Hong), we found a whimsical spot called Five 9th and continued the trend of dining al fresco. Hong and I narrowed down our choice to one of my favorite cakes…coconut! And I got my tawny port. Maybe I’m a grandpa, not a grandma, after all 🙂
The cake itself was a bit dry but the heavenly icing made up for that. I think Hong let me eat more than my share of this and for that I am grateful 😉 I’m so glad I got to spend a second evening with him absorbing and experiencing the magic and energy of NYC!
I’m sure now you can definitely see why I was so proud of myself for handling the weekend well. I surely went outside of my comfort zone with drinks and eats, but I also know that I missed out on nothing. I’m someone who enjoys the experience of a meal, and exploring a foodie city in that manner was completely appropriate, despite what my pesky brain was trying to tell me. I can look back at all these photos and the fun I had and feel grateful and fulfilled. I can excitedly share all of this with you and not let the guilty voice be triggered into action by doing so. I think that a major factor in helping me to lose myself in all these moments and take risks was the inspiration I felt being around all the bloggers that were teaching me or have more to teach me about myself and what I am capable of. Not only did BlogHer inspire me to be a better blogger, but it inspired me to appreciate all I have accomplished and allow myself to feel my passions – even if that passion is for dessert wine and coconut cake.
Have you ever been to NYC and if so, what is the best dining experience you’ve ever had there?
Have you ever eaten meals at a conference of any kind? How were they?
What is the most you have ever paid for a cocktail? Was it worth it?