Tag Archives: NYC

Pure Food and Wine – NYC

And so my adventures from NYC on Wednesday, 5/9/12 continue! Don’t forget to check out my recaps of the Fitness Magazine Meet & Tweet and Tone It Up event at Oakley in Times Square as well!

I adore vegan and vegetarian restaurants (despite the fact that I am not either), but they are hard to come by in CT. The only one I have visited near me (It’s Only Natural) is delicious and I’ve been there several times, but I like to try new restaurants…you all know that! So I’m sure you aren’t shocked that I was beyond-words excited when Heather and I realized during the Fitness Magazine Meet & Tweet, while conversing with Danielle over lunch, that one of NYC’s premier raw cuisine restaurants, Pure Food & Wine, was not only right in that very city, but a few blocks from our parking garage!

Dinner on the patio!

Heather and I took this as SERIOUS destiny. We were starved for dinner after leaving the Tone It Up event in Times Square, so we hailed a cab (that took awhile) to lug our sweaty butts and swag to the restaurant, which had JUST re-opened for dinner (many raw food restaurants close between lunch and dinner because of the work involved in prepping the freshest of food for delivery to customers’ bellies). We started the meal with the patio all to ourselves, and a kind stranger outside offered to snap a photo of us posing in front of the restaurant with all our stuff, like nomads!

Bag lady blends!

I love my unique cocktails, so I was all over that menu, which featured a line-up of drinks made with specialty sakes. I love me a good sake cocktail! I selected the Himalayan Paradise: ginger, lemon, and goji-berry infused sake.

The cocktail was everything I hoped it’d be – and more, since its presentation blew me away. The flower floating in the drink fit perfectly with the peaceful vibe that had already settled over the meal – before we’d even ordered.

I savored every last drop throughout the meal and tried to make the drink last, but it went down very fast 😉

Speaking of which, does anyone else get annoyed when the food at a restaurant comes out TOO quickly? I know it doesn’t happen often, and perhaps since everything at the restaurant was raw it cut down on the time to prepare our meals, but our dinner came out literally about ten minutes after we ordered. I like to take my time with my drink and sip it solo, apart from the food, for a bit before I start pairing it with my plate. I suppose I also value the restaurant experience so much that I want it to last as long as possible, and the sooner the food comes out, the closer the visit is to being over. The fact that dinner was served so quickly wasn’t really a big deal at all though in the scheme of things, and Heather and I settled in to feast.

But I’m getting ahead of myself! We had a tough time deciding – I so wish I had enough money and a big enough stomach to order EVERYTHING – but the combination of our helpful waitress and recommendations we’d received earlier in the day from Danielle helped us decide…eventually.

Heather chose the Hen of the Woods Tacos el Pastor: smoked guac, hearts of palm, chayote squash, guajillo crema fresca, and pickled onions. She looooves da guac, so this was a choice that was right up her alley. And just look at how beautiful it is! However, it tasted BETTER than it looked. So unique and flavorful. We both took our time with this food, because we didn’t and still don’t know when we’ll have a chance to eat a meal like this again!

Getting every last bit of sauce!

I ordered the Sweet Corn & Cashew Tamales with Chili-Spiced Portabella, which came with salsa verde, cashew coconut sour cream, avocado, and raw cacao mole! Another gorgeous presentation (that incorporated a flower) from the staff of Pure Food & Wine.

I had the idea of asking Heather to capture my face at first-bite.

At peace with my meal!

Yup – one of the best meals of my life. I was speechless! And it’s NOT because my mouth was stuffed…I was taking this slow. I didn’t want it to end!

But alas, it did! Heather the avocado-lover helped me with that portion, but I dominated the rest, and all that was left was that sad-looking empty tamale. Thanks to Danielle for mentioning this dish to me!

I wasn’t sure if I had any room for dessert after dominating my main plate, but Heather helped me realize that I definitely needed to live in the NYC-moment, because I don’t visit the city or restaurants like this every day! So, we ordered something VERY special.

It was the last day the seasonal pumpkin cheesecake would be on the menu, so that made our decision a bit easier. This dessert induced plenty of inappropriate-sounding moans and groans from both of us! There actually was NO pumpkin in it. Instead, the “body” of the cheesecake was composed of a squash and carrot puree. The crust was almond meal and the ice cream was of the cashew variety…I got my fill of cashew “dairy” at this meal and loved every bite! I wish I could remember specifically what the syrup, icing, and crispy cookie were made of, but let’s just say it was something akin to puppies and rainbows and all kinds of other wonderful things.

No. Shame.

I gave Heather the last bite. In exchange, she let me lick the plate. That’s what foodie friends are for!

Sad that it’s the last bite!

We were so, so very sad when the meal came to an end, but our bellies, bodies, and hearts were certainly pleased.

Love the way the check was “served”!

Since it was such a bloggy day, we left our business cards with the check!

Courtesy of Matty!

Thank you to Pure Food & Wine for providing an unforgettable experience to Heather and I! The restaurant surpassed our expectations and I only hope we can dine there again some day.

Have you ever been to a raw food restaurant?

Have you ever encountered a meal that you can truly say is one of the best you’ve EVER had?

If you’ve ever been to NYC, what’s your favorite restaurant you’ve been to there?

Tone It Up in Times Square!

Huge thanks to fellow Fitfluential Ambassador Carissa for featuring me on her and her husband’s blog, Fit2Flex, as part of their “5 Questions With…” series! Check out my answer to her five questions here!

Thank you for all the positive feedback you guys have been leaving on my recap posts about the big events I attended two weeks ago. I can’t believe it’s already been that long! In case you missed anything:

In the Meet & Tweet recap, I mentioned that after our time at Fitness Magazine HQ, Heather, Bess, and I trekked ourselves and our swag (commence viewing of silly vlog by Heather here) through the streets of NYC to the Oakley Store in Times Square for an event that meant a lot to my two blends – the Self Magazine Tone It Up Meet-Up!

The event didn’t disappoint! We arrived early enough (among the first 50 guests) to be gifted with more swag. And how appropriate for the event to be held in the Oakley Store, after we’d just received a pair of their fabulous new active wear sunglasses!

In our gift bags we found a $10 Oakley gift card, a copy of SELF, an Oakley towel and reusable water bottle, TIU’s Perfect Fit Protein Powder (not a user of powders so I gave mine to Heather), and best of all, a copy of their much-raved about Beach Babe DVD! Heather, Bess, and the rest of the TIU ladies I’ve met through blogging just LOVE these quick and efficient workouts. I’ve already tried HIIT the Beach, Long & Lean, and the abs segment. I really like how I can just pick segments and put them together based on what I’m feeling each day. I’m taking this DVD with me on a trip this coming weekend for potential hotel room workouts…and will also be using it this fall, once my night classes start back up, to get in quick morning sweats that will replace my usual evening gym trips!

Waiting in line!

Heather shows off her DVD – I love this pic!

Mattie joined us soon after we arrived. We got many questions from fellow line members about the eons of stuff we were dragging along with us. We’d (practically) sing out in chorus “We’re bloggers!” in response

So much stuff. The Vera flower gym bag was already mine! Haha

Our electronics were dying slow painful deaths, and Mattie had the brilliant idea to bust out her Mac and turn it into a portable iPhone charging station. Desperate times, desperate bloggers.

The event progressed very smoothly and in what seemed like not much time at all, we were at the front of the line and just moments from meeting Karena (in love with that spelling of that name, by the way) and Katrina.

Heather met the girls first, which seemed appropriate to me given the fact that they and their program have played such a huge part in her life, both personally and blog-related. Seeing her meet them was so much fun for me because I could tell just how much the chance meant to her! Sappy moment, but I just love seeing people happy.

The TIU trainers seemed to be all about the hugs!

Cannot help but notice some similarity in arm tone-age there! Go Heather!

Karena and Katrina even featured Heather and a recipe she made with the Perfect Fit Protein Powder on the TIU Facebook page after the event!

Next up it was time for Bess to meet the trainers! Bess is also a huge part of the Tone It Up team.

Dying over the outfits!

Mattie got some q-time in with the girls as well!

Three lovely ladies!

Then it was my turn! I have to say I was in awe of these two women. They are so, so beautiful and really radiated warmth and what I can only call a sort of “light”. And no, it wasn’t the camera flashes going off!

How much do you love the pink carpet?!

I felt totally comfortable giving both Karena and Katrina each a big hug and telling them how excited I was to finally try their Beach Babe DVD after I’d heard so much about it from Heather and Bess. They seemed genuinely touched and happy to hear it! Also, they signed my DVD…so now my copy is extra special 😀

Such a fun event to attend…I felt so swept up in the atmosphere of the city and the opportunities that I felt were awaiting me around every corner. I didn’t want the day to end. And luckily, it wasn’t going to!

Next up on the agenda for Heather and I was a meal of a lifetime at Pure Food & Wine, which as fate would have it, was right next to where our car was parked. So, she and I hopped in a taxi (no more swag-lugging for these girls), and set off for some clean eats…to be continued!

Have you ever heard of Tone It Up and/or tried any of their workouts or recipes?

Have you ever met a “celebrity” of the fitness world in person? What was it like?

Fitness Magazine Meet and Tweet

What a whirlwind the last several days have been! Thanks again for being so patient with me while I have been busy living life to the fullest 🙂 now it’s time to share my experiences with you all! Or at least, one of them!

Starbucks bold with a splash of steamed skim and cinnamon powder. Kthxbye.

On Wednesday, my best blend Heather and I stopped at Starbucks for caffeine (she let me try a sip of her black Blonde Roast – didn’t think I’d like the lighter brew, but surprise, it was PERFECT black!) and hit the road for the NYC Fitness Magazine Blogger Meet & Tweet!

Heather decided to be completely normal and make her choc protein pudding oats in the car 😉

This is a normal blogger thing to do!

The last hour of the ride was a bit of a nightmare since a) we had to pee and b) my butt had become completely numb from sitting for so long and c) we were moving at a crawl thanks to rush hour. Seriously, the body is NOT meant to sit for that long!!! Once Heather and I parked (I used a Groupon for the parking, $16 for the entire day, had to brag about it), we begged the attendant to let use use the employee-only, toilet paper-less bathroom. Desperate times, friends.

Ahhh much better!

Before we were able to relieve ourselves, Heather shot a silly vlog, which I begrudgingly agreed to be in for about .02 seconds. For your viewing pleasure…

Swear I’m not a tourist.

We were so excited to finally arrive! My heart was poundingas I entered the building – I could hear all the chatter going on upstairs, and could hardly believe I was about to walk into this amazing event.

We got our name tags, picked up our (first) bag-o-goodies, and set out to visit the booths that had been set up by the event sponsors.

Awesome display by Reebok, including spot to try on their RealFlex Transition sneakers!

I stopped by Reebok’s table first and was excited to meet Johnice Graham of their marketing team. Hello, dream job! She was so kind and told me I’d be seeing her in a couple days at their #RBKFITBLOG event! Of course I had to take a picture, which you may recognize from the blog’s Facebook page(new default!)

Next, I was BEYOND spoiled by Oakley!!! They had a booth set up where we could try on some of their new active wear sunglasses. They’re made for the active woman who likes to keep things fashionable at the same time – pretty sure that’s almost every female FitFluential Ambassador! Then the awesome ladies at the booth informed me that I could take home a pair of my favorite style. WHAT?!

Is this real life?

And a special shout-out to Jaclyn, an amazing PR girl I met at the Oakley booth. She was so cool and down to earth. I hope we get to hang out again soon!

Thank you Oakley!

I was also spoiled by Birkenstock! They gifted me a pair of their Madrid sandals in brown. I was honestly skeptical at first – I wasn’t sure if they would really be my style. However, my favorite pair of brown leather sandals broke a few months back, so this timing seems pretty perfect! I’m excited to break them in and will update you guys on how comfortable they feel on my feet.

Thank you Birkenstock!

Grain Foods Foundation, a non-profit, had a gorgeous spread of carb-y deliciousness set out for all-day snacking. The organization aims to spread awareness of the importance of grains and bread in the diet. Though some may avoid certain grains for dietary restriction reasons, I think it’s good that a non-profit like this exists to spread word to those that may avoid grains because of the “carbs are bad” notion that I myself have fallen victim to in the past.

Nut butter and jelly party!

Cream cheeses and veggies! I combined cucumber with the lox cream cheese – awesome.

Water and juices, mini pitas and naan, as well as plenty of toasters for those who like their carbs accompanied with carcinogens (me).

My favorite part – hummus, tzatziki, guac, pesto, and bruschetta spread!

One of the coolest parts of the event was hanging out with the grains as well – soccer champ Mia Hamm! Heather, Bess, Mattie, and I waited anxiously to meet her.

Photo: Steven Meyer (courtesy of FITNESS Magazine)

Photo: Steven Meyer (courtesy of FITNESS Magazine)

Photo: Steven Meyer (courtesy of FITNESS Magazine)

Photo: Steven Meyer (courtesy of FITNESS Magazine)

Photo: Steven Meyer (courtesy of FITNESS Magazine)

Mia was so kind and gracious. I thanked her for inspiring girls everywhere to get out there and be active, and she signed a soccer ball for me!

I also had the chance to interact with some other brands! I sampled the strawberry banana V8 V-Fusion Smoothie flavor, and liked it, surprisingly! Usually those kinds of drinks are way too sweet and fake-tasting to me, but this smoothie tasted natural and didn’t make me feel like I was drinking a dessert. I also checked out the new Schick Hydro Silk razor at the Schick table, and was pretty excited to hear I’d be receiving one in the end-of-the-day goodie bag. It even has a little imprint right above the head for your index finger to rest, and the blade itself points at an upward angle when the razor is resting, so that it doesn’t come in contact with the surface of your shower. Little attention to detail like that impresses me!

Of course you know I’m going to talk about the lunch spread. Well, it rocked my taste buds off. OK, so I’ll be a little more descriptive.

Fresh salmon with dill and lemon wedges!

Fruit salad; house salad with cucumber, radish, shaved asparagus, and green goddess vinaigrette; farro salad with grilled peaches and hazelnut vinaigrette.

Love this shot of an iPhone salmon tweet happening!

I helped myself to salmon and the house and farro salads! I’d rocked fruit for breakfast that morning so skipped the fruit salad.

Despicable. Absolutely horrendous.

Thanks to Gina for modeling the signature drink of the day, a fresh lemonade!

After the last info session, I was pleasantly surprised to see that another wave of food had been set out, this time in the form of  artfully-arranged snacks!

You know me…I have to try everything! So I helped myself to one of each type of the below pictured healthy snack “cones” – veggie crudites and apples with brie!

My favorite part of the day was the MEET part of this Meet & Tweet. No, it was not the free stuff. Not even close. How often do I get the chance to meet SO many friends for the first time in one place? And how often do I get to chat with the faces behind the blogs I’ve been reading for, in some cases, years?

Heather, Julie, and I

Peanut Butter Fingers is one of the first blogs I ever started reading, and Julie was kind enough to help me write my blog’s disclaimer back in September when I first got started. That fact alone should have been enough to assure me that she would be incredibly sweet and down to earth, but if it wasn’t, I was completely convinced the second we said hello. The voice Julie’s readers follow each day truly IS hers!

Courtney, me, and Meredith

I’ve also been reading Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life for a very long time, but I’ve gotta say, even the longest of readers could not realize how BEAUTIFUL Courtney is until he or she met her in person. Seriously, this girl is so put-together and an incredible beauty! Photos on the Internet do not do her justice. Meredith writes a newer blog, Dare You To, with a really unique concept. Each post DARES her readers to try a different challenge, and whether it’s something completely foreign to them or something they already may have been doing, it’s still extremely inspiring and a great source of discussion! I was glad to get to meet Meredith in person so that I could tell her how much I admire the idea – and just hang out and chat! We had so much fun. Check out this GORGEOUS photo taken of her during one of the panel sessions (by Fitness Mag photographer Steven Meyer).

Photo: Steven Meyer (courtesy of FITNESS Magazine)

I’m also kicking myself in the face (if I really could do that it’d be pretty impressive, no?) for not getting a photo with the CEO of FitFluential, Kelly Olexa. How humbling and awe-inspiring to FINALLY meet in person the woman who brought me into this Ambassador program and made so much possible. THANK YOU KELLY!

Me, Heather, and Meredith

I had the pleasure of eating lunch with Jill, Natasha, Heather, and Danielle, who I seem to be determined to pull towards me with all my might in the below photo .

Photo: Steven Meyer (courtesy of FITNESS Magazine)

Me, Heather, Natasha, and Jill.

Jill is a YouTube superstar (I envy her composure and poise in her videos), and Natasha does social media for Physique 57. I fangirled hardcore when she handed me a pass for two complimentary classes. A must-try next time I’m in NYC!

Me, Katie, and Heather.

Where do I begin with Katie? Seriously…where? I’ve been a Healthy Diva Eats reader for over a year because she writes a blog that is fun, fabulous, and fit. Well, the writer behind the blog is all three of those things and more. I have never met someone I felt so comfortable giving a HUGE hug to right away. I could have hugged Katie about a thousand times more than I got to throughout the day. She is such a kind, genuine, HAPPY person with an infectious personality. I already miss her! I’m so thankful the Fitness Mag photographer captured our first hug!

Photo: Steven Meyer (courtesy of FITNESS Magazine)

And another example of a beautiful human being, inside and out, is Carla Binberg. After finding my first blog ever, Kath Eats, I literally googled “healthy living blogs” because I was so excited to find more. MizFitOnline is one of the first that popped up, and I’ve been a follower ever since! I have always been attracted to Carla’s style of writing and REALLY hope she comes out with a book ASAP so I can bury my nose in it for hours. She has always been so willing to help out other FitFluential Ambassadors by connecting them with brands, giving them advice, and just delivering inspiring messages every day. Carla does blogging in her own instantly-recognizable-as-Carla’s way. Her readers will never find another blogger out there like her. I felt like I’d known her for years the second I introduced myself.


Throughout the day I ran into Nicole, Michele, and Cassandra. Nicole is a talented baker and soon-to-be mommy who blogs at Making Good Choices. She is beyond adorable! So is Michele, an already-and-soon-to-be mommy who blogs at NYC Running Mama. I’ve been chatting with her in the FitFluential Facebook groups for awhile so saying hey in person was surreal! Finally, Cassandra shares her genius recipes at Breakfast to Bed. I literally said, “Oh my God! You’re a genius!” when I met her, before even saying hello.

Heather, me, Nicole, Michelle, and Cassandra.

Shout outs as well to Christy and Maria, both amazing women who I didn’t get pictures with 🙁 but if you guys have some please send them my way?!

Last, but CERTAINLY not least of the people I met…the Editor in Chief of Fitness Magazine herself, Betty Wong! Telling people who do so much, especially careers that you are interested in, is a beautiful and special thing. Even if Betty hears it all the time, I still feel good knowing that I’ve told someone I admire exactly why I admire her and how she inspires me. And what’s even cooler…Betty also seemed very admiring and thankful to Heather and I for being there!

Betty, me, and Heather.

There were many informational panels going on throughout the day. I spent most of my time meeting and tweeting with bloggers and brands, but did catch a couple of the sessions. Fitness Fashion Director Argy Koutsothanasis presented an array of ensembles that combined fitness and street fashion. I was essentially obsessed with the blue and yellow Reebok jacket and pencil skirt combo (pictured below), and got a chance to awkwardly tell its model that very fact while waiting in line for the bathroom.

We also heard beauty tips from Fitness Beauty Director Eleanor Langston and the very funny Laura Geller. I can tell Laura was an actress – she’s a true entertainer!

My very favorite panel of the day was easily the last one, with Carla, Kelly, Julie, and Tina – How to Turn Your Blog into a Business.

Obsessed with Julie’s sneakers.

Very interesting tidbits I learned during this session:

  • Jessica Simpson reads Julie’s blog!
  • It’s not worth your time to get TOO into catering your blog to be SEO-friendly. There are little tips and tricks that always help, but inserting keywords in certain places on purpose or constantly changing your structure and wording to attempt to manipulate Google is not worth the time since their algorithm changes a ton.
  • Tina feels the same way as I do about the best part of blogging – the FRIENDS!
  • Carla’s number one freelancing tip is to pitch something that only YOU would be able to write. Make yourself valuable to brands!
  • My favorite simple quote from Kelly during the panel – “Be who you are!”

Photo: Steven Meyer (courtesy of FITNESS Magazine)

I did my best to live-tweet the panel’s advice using the #fitblognyc hashtag!

Photo: Steven Meyer (courtesy of FITNESS Magazine)

After the panel wrapped up, there was a Kiwi Sweat Pop-Up Fitnesss workout called Tabura planned, but Heather and I decided to head out to Time Square’s Oakley Store with Bess and Mattie for a meet-up with the Tone It Up trainers. I heard the workout was really fun though!

We hopped in line to wait for our swag-bags. Heather looked cute, while I decided to pass the time by making awkward faces.

Photo: Steven Meyer (courtesy of FITNESS Magazine)

Finally it was our turn!

Photo: Steven Meyer (courtesy of FITNESS Magazine)

Just a glimpse of our bag’s exteriors made us very happy girls.

Photo: Steven Meyer (courtesy of FITNESS Magazine)

Can you believe how much Fitness Magazine and the event sponsors hooked us up?!

I’m essentially obsessed with the bag by Sonia Kashuk. You can get her stuff at Target! On our way to Times Square, Heather, Bess, and I got a ton of questions about where we got our bags.

Reebok RealFlex Transition sneakers – in my favorite color!

I can’t wait to try these bad boys out. Everyone knows I love hot pink workout gear!

Sensational swag in-my-bag!

Ahhh – look at it all! My swag bag also included:

  • SunMaid Raisins, Pure Protein and Nature Valley bars, and Lipton Tea & Honey packets
  • FiberOne 90-calorie brownies (I can’t wait to try these in plain Greek yogurt, there’s a choc chip and a brownie flavor!)
  • the latest issue of Fitness (my sister is reading it right now and gives it two thumbs up!)
  • Element AM & PM Yoga for Beginners DVD – looking forward to using this when I need a wind-down or a good stretch to supplement a workout
  • “Drop Dead Healthy” book by AJ Jacobs, who was at the event during a panel – I plan to read this, but I think my parents want to first!
  • two CamelBak bottles, one with a built-in filter and one without – I gave the one without to my sister, and she is VERY impressed and in love! I plan to do a giveaway for the one with the filter because even though I know they’re worse for the environment, I prefer to drink out of recyclable plastic water bottles. Nothing else will do for me!
  • Blow Pro Faux-Dry dry shampoo
  • Dogeared star necklace – this one made my sister pretty jealous and I felt bad because I’d never heard of this brand before, but it’s so pretty!!! I can’t find a photo online but will tweet it when I wear it!
  • Hand in Hand Orange Blossom sustainable soap – after getting my first piece of sustainable soap at CT Veg Fest recently, I can’t wait to use this!
  • Vichy lotion – gave to my sis, not my thing at all, a caffeine-containing lotion meant to make cellulite less severe and firm the stomach. However inside of box has creative packaging – diff ab moves printed on the inside! Glad to see a company not putting for the illusion that their lotion alone will “work miracles”.

As I mentioned briefly above, some of the bag’s contents are honestly not my thing so be on the lookout for a giveaway or two coming soon!

OK, but this band definitely IS MY THING. Heather got Sweaty Bands in her bag but I didn’t get any in mine, and after hearing I’ve always wanted to try them (especially after I watched Maria ROCK hers at #RBKFITBLOG), she was kind enough to give me the one I’m wearing above. THANK YOU HEATHER! Another goody my sister is very envious of.

Crazy bag lady – I walked from Fitness Mag to Times Square with this stuff!

I’ll definitely be doing a giveaway for the yoga mat I’m holding above, because I already have a yoga mat! This one is brand new and was gifted to us by New Media Strategies, the partner firm that helped put on the event. They were the world’s first social media marketing firm…true innovators! Samantha Pepi, the Senior Promotions Manager for NMS that helped keep us bloggers informed about the event, did an amazing job and chatting with her at the NMS table was very fun. I hope it was fun for her too, since we kept making her take pictures for us! 😛

And then…Heather, Bess, and I were off to the Tone It Up meetup in Oakley’s Times Square location! The whirlwind day was only just getting started! MORE TO COME!

What part of this event would you have enjoyed the most? If you attended, what DID you enjoy the most?

Have you tried or ever wanted to try any of the products mentioned in this post?

What question would YOU have asked the members of the blogger panel?

Today, We Visit Bouchon Bakery and the Europa Cafe

Don’t forget, you have until this Friday at 11:59PM EST to enter my Anytime Fitness giveaway for the CEO’s new book, “Working Out Sucks! (And Why It Doesn’t Have To)”. Check out my review on the giveaway page as well! Thanks to all who joined in our awesome #WorkingOutSucks Twitter chat last night – there will be another one on 1/30!

Now let me continue to recap things that I am ridiculously behind on. I haven’t even gotten to Christmas Day yet! Let’s go back to Christmas Eve…

Our traditional NYC trip always includes a visit to the Today Show on Christmas Eve morning. Unfortunately, this year that morning coincided with a Saturday, so the show was being done to a much-lower scale than usual. A lot of the segments being run were repeats from during the week. However, no crowd = easy for us to get on TV!

I made sure to get my daily cup of joe from a place I can’t normally visit, as I often try to do on trips/vacations. I took to Twitter to ask my always-dependable blends/friends for recommendations near Rockefeller Center!

Sounded good to me, and due to the weekend/holiday making the Today Show low-key, there actually was no insanity that Britt warned me about!

I loved the look of Bouchon Bakery from the start! I was in awe of the pastry case inside. We always eat breakfast after the show, so I didn’t order any food, but of course took plenty of photos.

Color settings a bit off to start…

Look at those macaroons!

I adore chalkboard menus.

I ordered my usual nonfat cafe au lait, and was so enamored by the bakery’s interior that I forgot to sprinkle my usual cinnamon on top!

My sister, dad, and I staked out our spot and got ready for the cameras to come outside so we could have our latest brush with fame.

Why no, I did not brush my hair, thanks for asking.

It was pretty cold out (though our coldest trip, in 2009, has yet to be matched), but we stuck it out. Eventually we caught a glimpse of good old Lester Holt and Amy Robach. She looked absolutely adorable in the cutest coat and shoes. I was hoping to meet Lester (love his hip glasses), but the two of them just waved to the crowd, did their segment, and ran right back inside!

Coat and shoe envy!!

Then a weatherman came out – and we got our moment of fame!

Weather guy chatting with some Giants fans in the crowd.

Can you catch us?! I apologize for the crappy video, but I was filming my TV (we DVR-ed the show) with my iPhone. The voices you may hear in the background are my dad and brother watching the video with me. Footage copyright NBC Today Show.

My Nana Connie also took this picture of her TV with her BlackBerry:

I can’t believe I didn’t think to make a CaitPlusAte.com poster – d’oh!

After our “appearance”, it was breakfast time for Dad and I (Hannah had a Starbucks breakfast at the hotel). We strolled around a bit, heading back in the general direction of the Marriott, and spotted a Europa Cafe. We decided to duck in there and grab a bite. Not exactly a unique NYC foodie spot, but I still can’t get it at home, so good enough for me.

I immediately drifted toward the omelet bar. It had been awhile since I’d had an omelet and those veggies looked so good! For you oatmeal lovers out there, Europa Cafe also had a pretty well-stocked oatmeal bar. Unlike every other blogger out there, I rarely ever eat oatmeal!

I gave the chefs my order – an egg white omelet with veggies and dry wheat toast – and watched them work.

My dad got an omelet too, but he also got homefries. His omelet used whole eggs and had cheese, bacon, and veggies. My daddio loves a good, hearty omelet!

Thanks for displaying, Dad!

My breakfast came out perfect. Again, not the most special or unique of places, but it did the job.

I added some ketchup to my eggs and ate the omelet in pieces atop my toast.

Does anyone else eat their eggs and toast like this?

Have you ever gotten coffee and/or breakfast from anywhere particularly remarkable in NYC?

Have you ever gone to watch a taping of any show, live or not?

The Plaza Food Hall by Todd English

Continuing my ridiculously behind-schedule series of recaps of my holiday season, enjoy this restaurant recap from dinner on 12/23!

I am always in charge of  choosing restaurants on family trips, and our annual Christmas Eve trip to NYC is no different. I went to Twitter and Yelp to seek out a dinner destination, and found great success on the latter when I stumbled upon the menu for The Plaza Food Hall by Todd English. You guessed it, it’s located at the famous Plaza Hotel, and the huge menu told me two things:

  1. My dad, sister, and I were each sure to find something we’d like.
  2. I would NEVER be able to decide what to order.

I was torn between so many options!! And what is pictured above was only one side of the menu. I asked the waitress for some advice, but finally just went with my gut last-minute and decided literally right before I opened my mouth to tell my waitress my order.

The restaurant is set up with “bar-style” seats at various stations (one for each section of the menu). We were seated at the flatbreads station – appropriate since that’s what I ended up ordering!

We also were seated right by what I can only guess was the “grilling station”, which was cool because whenever I turned around, a new tasty order was up on the counter waiting to be picked up by a waiter – and waiting to be photographed by me!

A couple tasty taco options.

To start, I ordered a cocktail called the Green Agave: Patron, agave nectar, fresh lime juice, and basil/mint. It was fantastic – the right amount of tequila (AKA nice and strong), and nice and light.

Even their sodas were served in a fancy manner – check out Hannah’s Diet Coke!

The flatbread chef was kind enough to take a photo of the three of us.

Service was a bit slow, but we were in no real rush. By the time our food came, I was definitely ready to dive in. I ended up going with a flatbread topped with Brussels sprouts, caramelized onions, tomatoes, gorgonzola, and prosciutto. I asked for light cheese, and did not really get it, but I picked some off and still enjoyed my meal!

Hannah selected the hamburger with classic french fries. I had a bite of her burger and it was cooked very well. The fries looked great!

My dad went all out and started with the special soup of the day: mushroom bisque. Two thumbs up from him on this!

For the main course, he ordered the Kobe Pastrami Burger with the special side of the night, Fried Risotto Tots. Unfortunately, the tots didn’t come til the end of the meal, when we were all quite full. I tried to convince my dad to send them back, but he doesn’t like to do that kind of thing. We all agreed that they also weren’t all that great – a yummy crispy fried shell for sure, but the risotto insides were pretty tasteless. The burger and pastrami, however, were both out of this world.

Nice, right? Yes, I got to eat those pickles the burger was topped with.

After we paid the bill, we stopped by the dessert station on the way out and got a piece of chocolate cake to-go. The three of us split it back at the hotel room – it was pretty good, not amazing, but still a tasty end to the night.

Overall, I really loved The Plaza Food Hall. Despite not having one type of food it specializes in, the restaurant produces high-quality dishes almost all across the board. In a crowded NYC dinner spot, service can’t be expected to be perfect, but it could have been a little speedier. Still, we were chillin’, and didn’t mind waiting too much (except for the tots that came at the end of the meal). I definitely would recommend this place to NYC visitors and locals alike. There was simply so much to choose from – I’d be glad to go back!

Take a look at the menu – what would you order? Can you even choose?

NYC Traditions

I’m currently blogging from the Tampa Bay International Airport, waiting for my connecting flight to take my siblings and I back to CT. Not pleased about going back, but I am pleased that I can continue to relive this wonderful holiday season through all my recap blog posts – enjoy this latest one, about our trip to NYC 12/23-12/24!

Every year, my dad takes my sister and I to NYC on the 23rd. We shop, go out to eat, and stay overnight. Then on the morning of the 24th, we wake up and go to the Today Show to get on TV! We are successful each year, and after we get on TV, we have breakfast, shop if we still need to make some stops, and then go home. It is really one of our most beloved family traditions, and I look forward to our NYC excursion each and every holiday season.

The coldest year we ever went, in 2009.

Last year's trip in 2010! Sis is behind the camera.

This year was wonderful, as usual.

Traditional photo prior to departure.

We stayed at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, which was very ritzy and super convenient.

Loved the glass elevators!

Elevators were supposedly super efficient (and were…at times). You typed in the number of your desired floor on a keypad, and the screen displayed which elevator you were supposed to go to.

We were all the way up on the 38th floor! What a view, and a nice room too.

Hannah and I prepared for our shopping with a Starbucks pit-stop for nonfat mistos.

She and I had some fun with the Forever 21 billboard in Times Square that shows its audience with a new character every couple of minutes. Can you spot us? Probably not, I barely can. If you could I actually might be a little freaked out.

Halfway through shopping I got a hankering for a unique NYC snack. I found it at Nuchas, a little stand in the heart of Times Square that sold empanadas. I chose a grilled chicken variety that was delicious. I didn’t take a photo because it did look quite plain, but trust me, this was better than a street vendor hot dog.

I had some success shopping! I found a sweatshirt and new jeggings at American Eagle, and a ton of jewelry and a shirt at Forever 21.

And then came our traditional trip to Rockefeller Center to see the tree at night!

Then it was time to go back to the hotel to get ready for what turned out to be a wonderful dinner – still to come!

What’s your most treasured holiday family tradition?

Josie’s West and a Relaxing Sunday

Hey guys! I’m a bit late asking this but…how was your weekend?! In case you missed it, Sunday I recapped the Cafes do Brasil brunch I attended in NYC on Saturday in honor of Brazilian Coffee Week in NYC. Highly recommend that you check out the recap if you’re interested in coffee and/or brunch!

Ready to head into the city.

I had such an amazing day in the city the rest of Saturday. After the brunch, I met up with an old friend from high school to seeJ. Edgar, which I HIGHLY recommend. It was a bit long but if you go in prepared for that, I think you’ll really enjoy it. Everyone’s performances were wonderful (except Naomi Watts, who I felt was just kind of there, but she was still OK).

I drove in by myself and spent some time alone shopping as well at Urban Outfitters. 50% off all sale prices – how could I resist?!

Please ignore the feet of my stuffed bear in the upper right.

Everything was just $10 each!

My grandmother often makes trips by herself, and now I see why. I loved being on my own schedule, taking things at my own pace, and being able to listen to my audio book on the drive there/back. It would take a lot of bravery for me to take on an international cruise alone, like she often has for up to a week, but solo day trips definitely have new appeal to me for their lack of stress involved.

After seeing the movie, I had the opportunity to meet up with two bloggers I have been following for awhile, Katy and Danielle, at Josie’s for dinner. The place came recommended to me by Kathleen of the Elvis Duran Show, and Katy and Danielle confirmed for me when we were originally making these plans that the place was worth visiting. And they were certainly right – I LOVED Josie’s and already want to go back!

I arrived and was totally starving. I polished off the above cornbread and focaccia bread, which was accompanied by a hummus that was either pumpkin or squash flavored – I never did completely figure it out. But as soon as I saw that there was hummus paired with the bread, I knew this was my kind of place.

Boo flash.

It was a tough decision, and one of those times when I wished I had about 10 stomachs, but I decided on the Grilled Scottish Salmon with mango-roasted pepper salsa, pinto beans, and grilled asparagus. It was fabulous!! I finished every last bite, and Katy’s veggie meatloaf and Danielle’s butternut squash ravioli were amazing as well (we sampled each other’s dishes).

Me, Danielle, and Katy.

What a great time! I so enjoyed meeting the girls who write these blogs that I have been reading for so long, since way before I started blogging. Thank you ladies for a tasty meal with great conversation!

Though I had a great time on Saturday, it was nice to spend my Sunday around town and have a relaxing Sunday. I went to spin very early and wore my new Old Navy workout top, which served me well (and even has a little zipper pocket built in – nice!) in a sweaty class. Also got HW done at Daybreak (accompanied by coconut coffee of course) and did some chores at home.

Sunday's lunch, eaten while doing some reading.

I ended my weekend with a trip to happy hour at J. Gilbert’s with a couple of friends I’ve known since high school. We were there for over two hours and had a great time! OK, I had a little too good of a time after drinking two glasses of Avalon Cab…on an empty stomach. Mistake!

Back to the grind this week…but I had a great dinner out last night and got to attend my favorite Step class, so I’d say it’s starting out well!

Have you ever gotten the chance to meet a blog friend in person? Have you ever taken a solo trip?

Cafes do Brasil Week in NYC

If you are in the NYC area this week (November 12-19), I highly recommend checking out Cafes do Brasil Week! Twenty restaurants will be serving high-quality Brazilian coffees, which I had the pleasure of sampling yesterday at a brunch at Casa Restaurant in NYC.

My greeting upon entering the restaurant.

I was greeting by the friendly woman who invited me to the event, Elena, and received a cute little bag which contained a Cafes do Brasil pin and a brochure which mapped out and described each Brazilian coffee, where it came from, and what distinguished each variety from the others. The brochure was extremely informative and helpful during the coffee tasting because it helped us visualize exactly where in the country the beans of the coffee were were drinking that very morning were grown!

Other attendees of the event included freelance writers, blog owners, photographers, and web journalists. I met some amazing people and the conversation was fantastic!

I adored the simple place settings and classic cloth place mats. Those salt and pepper shakers are cute too!

The interior was also gorgeous. During the meal, one of the writers I met, Alex DiBlasi, told me that the street we were on was supposedly one of the oldest in the entire city. I can definitely see that, because the restaurant had an old charm with a touch of authentic Brazilian decor. The plentiful sunshine coming in through the windows brightened up the white walls and ceiling even more too.

We had the chance to sit down and taste three types of Brazilian coffees with Christian Santiago of the Brazilian Roasters Association and Alberto Bicca of the Brazilian Trade Promotion Agency. I feel lucky to have been able to learn about the coffees I was trying from Brazilians with such a passion for what the farmers of their country grow – Brazil is the world’s top coffee producer! I’m a self-proclaimed coffee addict, but honestly do not know much about its origins or different types beyond simple flavor differences. Now I can honestly say I am a more educated coffee drinker, and I love knowing more about what I love!

Some of the cool stuff I learned from Christian and Alberto:

  • Deregulation of Brazilian coffee in the 1990’s aided in putting quality over quantity and increased the varieties of premium coffee grown, as well as the incidence of “green” growing practices.
  • Since the coffee grows best in certain altitudes, and so much farming is done in the mountains, there is a lack of flat land available to lay out the beans and let them naturally dry in the sun after harvest. That is why coffees made from beans that were dried are more rare.
  • Coffee is a fruit! Well, the bean that is.
  • Just like in Europe, there is not much iced coffee to be found in Brazil. Coffee-based alcoholic beverages are also not as popular there as in America.
  • In Brazil, it is common to do tastings of coffee and wine at the same time. SIGN ME UP!

I absolutely loved each coffee I tried. We sampled them solo first, from lightest to darkest (Mogiana, Cerrado, Planalto, as seen in the menu above). And trying them back-to-back highlighted the subtle flavor differences so well. My favorite type was the Cerrado, because the subtle orange flavor the menu promised was really there. I had never tasted something like that in coffee before, and I do tend to gravitate toward the unique!

My kind of shots…

I loved the atmosphere of this brunch. The people were friendly, the pace of sampling was slow, and I felt so relaxed and at ease. I’ve been feeling pretty stressed lately, so the entire day in the city yesterday was a welcome release.

Food time! Each sample was provided by Jeff Santos of Brazilian Specialty Foods, Inc and we were definitely impressed.

We started with a basket of cheese bread, yucca and coconut cake, and sugar and cinnamon doughnuts. Everything was wonderful. The doughnuts, while delicious, did not taste unique in any way that would make me think they were Brazilian. However, the yucca and coconut cake was unlike any breakfast bread I’d tried before – the perfect sweetness. I dipped both that and the doughnuts in another cup of the Cerrado.

Perfect pairing.

I love both sweet and savory breakfast treats, so the cheese bread was really something. It smelled like an asiago bagel, but had a soft, pillowy texture that I enjoyed. Each little “puff” was not chewy at all, but flaky and a pleasing warm temperature. They were my favorite part of the basket.


The main course was eggs florentine paired with roasted potatoes and Brazilian sausage. Each of us enjoyed a cup of the Planalto coffee with this dish, because it is considered the most breakfast-like coffee of the three we tried. It did complement the food well! I usually drink coffee solo, and rarely with food, so this was a nice change of pace for me. Again, the relaxed brunch vibe was really flowing at this point and I was having a blast.

The sausage was honestly the best I have ever had. The potatoes were also perfect – not greasy, and soft with the exception of perfect, crisp edges.

The egg was poached perfectly and my favorite part of the meal was saved for last – the yolk-soaked, spinach-covered english muffin. YUM. I cleaned my entire plate.

This was my first official blogger event and it far surpassed my expectations. I made amazing connections and learned so much about New York City from the other attendees and about Brazilian coffees from the event hosts.

Again, anyone in the NYC area this week should really head to one of the restaurants participating in Cafes do Brasil Week and try some Brazilian coffees – and some Brazilian food too, because why not, right? Some of these coffees are even in our country for the first time ever!

Thank you to Cafes do Brasil for having me and for teaching me so much about my favorite beverage!

How much do you know about coffee? What’s your favorite brunch dish?

Greek Food Love

As you can already see from one my About page photos, I love love LOVE Greek food! Or just any food with Mediterannean origins. There’s something so satisfying about it and I love that there are both meat-heavy and vegetarian options – perfect for everyone!

If you’re afraid  to go Greek, start with the basic staple that’s infiltrated my diet, as well as the diets of many out there: hummus! It’s a chickpea spread perfect for sandwiches, dipping, wraps, pizza, EVERYTHING. If you’ve already been going with store-bought (Cedar’s Garlic Lovers is my favorite), that’s fine, but once you try REAL homemade hummus (or hommus), I swear you will never go back!

Or you will go back, because you don’t have a food processor at home or the time to make homemade hummus in said food processor. I fall under both of those categories, so good old Cedar’s saves me.

They also make a delicious tzatziki sauce (a yogurt dip) that definitely is closer to homemade versions than their hummus! Don’t think sweet when you hear yogurt, tzatziki is savory and a really great light alternative to creamy ranch or french onion dips for your next gathering (or solo snacking session). My mom just got turned onto tzatziki this summer and now she can’t believe she lived that long without it.

I could go on and on about different types of Greek food I love, but instead I’ll share some awesome experiences I’ve had at various restaurants!

One place I love so much for their convenient location, great service, and awesome food is Cavos Tavern in Newington, CT. I have actually been there twice! The first time I had the cold pikilia platter (the photo from the About page), which featured hummus, tzatziki, skordalia (potato garlic dip), and kopanisti (hot pepper feta spread). The pita was BEYOND amazing and the leftovers I brought home were what got my Mom hooked on tzatziki! And I also ended up eating half of my friend Lidia’s HUGE gyro. She liked it so much she ordered it again the second time we went back!

Lidia and her gyro which, lucky for me, was too big to finish.

Next on our Greek restaurant tour, we head to another place I’ve liked enough to go back to, Steve’s on Newbury St. in Boston. Both times I got the same thing, the cold pikilia platter (see a running trend here? I can’t make up my mind so I need a little of everything). Theirs comes with dip and pita and veggies like at Cavos, but also some dolmades (vegetarian stuffed grape leaves) and spanikopita (spinach and feta pies) that were AMAZING.

The second time I went to Steve's.

Next on our tour is Parthenon in Washington, DC, one of the stops on my DC-food-frenzy trip that I took this past May with my foodie friend Jeff. It was recommended to us by one of my Greek friends, so I didn’t think we could go wrong – and we definitely didn’t! We split the hot and cold sampler platters (gotta try it all) and had a wonderful experience. We had to tell our waitress to stop bringing pita because we were sooo full – they were certainly generous with it!

Cold sampler platter: tzatziki, hummus, feta, olives, emam baildi,tarama (caviar), and fasolia beans.

Hot sampler platter: dolmades, spanikopita, kalamari, and manitaria gemisti (stuffed mushrooms).

I have traveled far and wide to try all things Greek (or more like, whenever I travel I try to try something Greek along the way), so when Lidia and I went to Florida for Spring Break in March, we couldn’t resist trying a hole in the wall that had been around the area for ages – Olympia. When the owner found out Lidia was Albanian, he sent us complimentary shots of ouzo – and it was good! Guess I even like the Greeks for their alcohol!

Toasting to free drinks! And sunburns.

She went with their keftedes (Greek meatballs) while I, unable to decide as usual, went all out and got both their cold AND hot platters. It was another incidence of me polishing off this food and Lidia’s leftovers. When it comes to Greek I seem to be a bottomless pit!

Pita and taramosalata, tzatziki, hummus, and dolmades with cucumbers, olives, and tomatoes

Both of my selections were beyond amazing. It’s a shame I don’t live in Florida because I’d love to go back here, but luckily I am returning for Christmas and will definitely be stopping by with my mom for some cold sampler platter action.

Hot sampler (and remnants of my cold…): spanikopita, cheese pie, and the Greek meatballs!

The last place on our tour of Greece-away-from-Greece is an obvious choice for ethnic food of any variety: NYC! I have been to a few Greek places here (I almost always go to one when I visit because there’s an endless amount to try). I love being able to order a sampler platter every time, but get a different variation at each restaurant! I’m a bad blogger (don’t hate me, I’m new!) and don’t remember the names of the Greek places I’ve visited, but here is a photo from each of the three places I’ve tried in the Big Apple:


Sorry for the awful last photo, the lighting was so weird, but you get the idea!

So if you’re a Greek food fan, I hope I’ve given you some recommendations to keep in mind for places to get good food, whether you’re travelling or staying local!

And if you’re afraid of Greek food, I hope the below photo doesn’t scare you even more:

Greek pizza Jeff and I made: tzatziki, hummus, chickpeas, roasted eggplant, feta on Boboli wheat crust.

My aplogies again for the scary iPhone photo. I promise you, it was delicious.

Do you like Greek food? What are some of your favorite places to get it? If you haven’t tried it, what’s stopping you?