Austrian Adventures

Austria, home of strudel, snitzel and the Sound of Music, has a sense of regality that makes you feel momentarily like royalty.  History seeps into every grand avenue of Vienna, lined with enlightenment era white marble buildings and ornate cafes.  Two days in Vienna allowed me to appreciate the cultural richness of the city from the classical music to the turn of the century art movements that define the golden era of the Habsburg empire.  Across the country, lays Salzburg, in the mountains, where both Mozart and the Von Trap family originated.  I regrettably only spent one night in Salzburg, but that was enough for me to fall in love with the alpine charm and natural beauty of the area.  

Vienna appears surprisingly like a modern busy city from the outskirts in with plenty of energy and vibrance.  City center, however, old town charm is abundant.  The churches show the best of baroque architecture, marked by the massively elaborate St Stephans Cathedral with its intricately colorful mosaic roof and spires.  I happened to walk into a service at the church and got to hear the organ play while taking the elevator up to the rood which was quite an experience (imagine hearing the lords prayer sung in German).  The cathedral boosts wonderful views of the city, along with views of the unique roof.  The famous opera house, where Mozart, Strauss, Beethoven, among others, casually premiered much of their most well known work, is right across from the Sacher Hotel, home to the original Sacher Torte.  I enjoyed the famous chocolate and apricot cake at the Sacher Cafe which was magically upholstered in deep red velvet and magnificent chandlers.  The apple strudel from the cafe is also amazing and the atmosphere itself is worth it, even if you don’t like chocolate cake.  

Schoenbrunn palace is a quick 15 minute subway ride outside of the city center and holds so much history from Austria’s Habsburg glory days.  The giant palace sits on beautiful gardens and is well worth an inside tour since the rooms are perfectly preserved, including the grand ballroom and the big portrait rooms.  From a historical standpoint, the audioguide offered a lot of insight into the palace’s history and the lives of the people that lived there which was extremely fascinating.  

Belvedere palace is actually an art museum, yet looks extremely regal from the outside.  The palace hosts many of Austria’s most famous works such as Klimt’s The Kiss and other works, and the big Napoleon painting that is instantly recognizable.  The museum is really well done with a beautiful neoclassical marble interior and a great collection of art spanning many centuries.  

Beyond desserts, Austrian food is hearty and comforting.  I tried both pork and veal weiner snitzel served traditionally with potato salad, lemon and cranberry sauce.  The breaded and fried meat pairs perfectly with the sweeter garnishes.  It’s disgustingly delicious and definitely a must-try.  Austrian beef-broth soup is also very tasty, served with a big singular dumpling (think matzo-ball soup with beef instead of chicken).  Bratwurst stands can be found all over Vienna and they might seem sketchy, but they serve up the best hot dogs in soft baguettes.  I tried a cheese filled one with mustard and I’ve been dreaming about it ever since.  Cafe Central is a famous belle époque era cafe that mimics a gothic cathedral and has had many famous intellectuals as regulars over the years.  I had apple strudel for breakfast there and have no shame about it.  

Cafe Central in all its glory

Traditional Austrian dinner

Salzburg, at the foot of the alps, is a mountain city, full of both regal and charm.  The Sound of Music tour was the perfect way to see the city and the surrounding area in a short time with unmatched panoramic vistas.  You get to visit all of the filming locations and sing along to the music on the bus.  The town makes Mozart’s presence know, with monuments and squares all over dedicated to him.  Walking around Salzburg at night was surreal, as the hill top castle and other landmarks are lit up, along with the incredible rock face that the town is built into.  

Restaurants:

Cafe Sacher: famous and beautiful

Cafe Central: also famous and beautiful with good breakfast

Weibel’s Wirtshaus: great classic Austrian food in a nice setting

Zum Zirkelwirt: Fun atmosphere and casual Austrian food in Salzburg

København Kool

Copenhagen, or as the Danish say “København” with the emphasis on the vowels, oozes with cool and style. I’m hard thought to think of a trendier city that I’ve visited. The “hipness” finds itself in everything from the fashion (think Ganni and ACNE Studios) and street art to the food and fresh juices. Compared to the cramped streets of Florence, the quaint Copenhagen streets feel reminiscent of fairy tales. The contrast between the old and the modern is very distinct in art and architecture.

Amalienborg Palace with Frederik’s Church in the background, representing the best of regal Denmark

The castles and palaces of Copenhagen are all beautiful and offer insight into the history of the country. Rosenborg Castle looks as if it could easily be out of Disney’s Frozen with its spires and picture perfect carp filled mote. The interior is full of rococo era art and decor and the basement holds the crown jewels of Denmark which are just as majestic as they are fascinating. Amalienborg Palace is more modern and it serves as the current home of the Danish royal family. The square, along with Frederik’s Church, is beautiful.

The ornate and fascinating Rosenborg Castle
Tivoli is the second oldest amusement park in the world and served as inspiration for the Disneyland

Walking through the city is quite honestly like walking through a fairy tale and Tivoli Amusement Park embodies the epitome of the Disney mystic. The park is found in the middle of the city, yet feels removed and magical with pristine rides and attractions that puts Disneyland to shame, visually. The winter lights at night are beautiful and the international food hall is a great and delicious way to save money on dinner. I felt like a giddy little child walking through the park and seriously could not stop smiling of happiness.

Funky modern design can be seen throughout the harbor tour

Taking a boat tour through the canals and harbor helped me grasp the layout of the city and see all of the interestingly designed buildings from the water. The opera house and library (both on the water) contrast the quaint colorful buildings that line the canals with state of the art unique modern architecture. The tour also goes to the famous Little Mermaid statue which is out of the way by foot and a bit underwhelming. It’s one of those things that you have to do as a tourist and the tour made it worth it.

Altalier September has one of the most trendiest brunch’s in the city

Copenhagen has mastered the instagram-era art of brunch with trendy cafes and ascetically perfect food. Not only does the food look amazing, but it also tastes amazing. The Danes are known for their open-faced sandwiches, so you know the avocado toast will be superb. I had two of the best avocado toasts I’ve ever had and that’s coming from someone who religiously eats avocado at every opportunity.

Union Kitchen’s popular brunch

Copenhagen’s food scene is consistently named one of the best in the world, thanks to an emphasize on creativity and healthy natural foods. The now international juice chain, Joe and the Juice, started in Copenhagen and they are about as easy to find as a Dunkin’ Donuts in New York. Superfoods are abundant and they love fresh seafood. The smoke salmon and pickled herring were amazing for dinner and the baked goods for breakfast were unique and always flavorful.

Light display at the Museum of Design

I’ve never been to a museum quite like the Museum of Design, a museum dedicated to the tradition of cutting edge design in Denmark with displays from the 18th century to today. They had a special exhibit about the evolution of disco and nightclubs which was super interesting and well done. The permanent exhibits were a visual treat with a wide range of art, both modern and traditional, on display.

Contemporary furniture display at the Design Museum
Reminiscent of NYC’s Soho campaigns, this Pepsi ad is one of many murals found around Copenhagen

Places I ate:

• Restaurant Puk (Traditional Danish in a fun environment)

• Union Kitchen (Trendy brunch and coffee)

• Joe and the Juice

• Tivoli International Food Court (very good cheaper food and lots of options)

• Atelier September (great coffee shop with small plates)

• The Market (trendy contemporary Asian)

• Kompa 9 (small local coffee shop and bakery)

Shopping: 

• Stroget street (longest pedestrian street filled with both danish and international clothing chains)

• Normal and Message (two trendy Danish stores with decent prices)

• Magasin (Big nice department store full of Scandinavian brands)

• Ganni (Danish “It” brand of the moment around the world thanks to Instagram influencers)

Exploring Argentina

Hi everyone! I’m back after a little hiatus. College life has caught up to me and I seriously haven’t had the chance to sit down and write anything. Lots has been going on and I’m about to leave for my semester abroad in Italy where I hope to document every aspect of my travels while exploring Europe! To kick off two months before I leave, I want to revisit my summer travels in Argentina, an amazing adventure for my first time in South America.

Argentina is a rich country full of culture and vibrance. I had the opportunity to explore all sides of the country from the tropical paradise of Iguazu Falls on the northern border, to the Patagonian tundra and the spirited metropolis of Buenos Aires. Starting with the city, Buenos Aires is massive with many different neighborhoods that harness different environments and cultures. Like any cosmopolitan city, there’s your trendy quarter (Palermo), the bourgeois strong held (Recoleta), a boho artist dwelling neighborhood (San Telmo), and colorful working class neighborhoods (La Boca). What makes Buenos Aires such a delight to walk around is that each of these unique areas feels like a different city with their own cultures, arts and atmospheres. I relished walking around each area and discovering the little quirks while enriching myself through the Argentinian culture.

A must see and highlight of the city is the Recoleta Cemetery, a world famous cemetery that is unlike any other. The cemetery is quite literally a city for the dead (think of a village of tiny house mausoleums), allowing you to easily get lost with intrigue among the mass of uniquely designed tombs. The park that surrounds the walled cemetery is perfect for people watching and soaking in the Argentinian culture. Street musicians and tango performers are abundant. Sitting outside sipping a latte at an alfresco cafe is an ideal way to watch the vibrant scene of the large park. On the weekends, a large local craft market sets itself up around the cemetery. Browse the local artisan stalls full of unique crafts and get lost once again in the central highlighting park/cemetery of the Recoleta neighborhood.

Palermo Soho and Hollywood reflect their namesakes, being the “trendy” neighborhoods. Younger and colorful, they offer fun steakhouses or parrillas and many nice boutiques for shopping. Don Julio and La Carnicería are two popular and delicious options that were highlighting meals of my trips (both in the Soho neighborhood). The strong dollar and weaker local currency makes shopping a thrill in Argentina (take advantage people!) and some of the best and nicest Argentinian labels are located in Soho. For a break from shopping, stroll into a local cafe and enjoy the slow art of sipping an Argentinian coffee (preferably with a football game in the background).

A Soho street

The La Boca neighborhood is the grittier working-class neighborhood with colorful architecture and street art that reflects the vibrant pride and culture of the people. The vibe along the small streets is definitely touristy, but the buildings are interesting to observe and provide for great instagram opportunities (sorry, photo-opts). Fun and fascinating street art can be found all over Buenos Aires, but the best can be found in the more seedier areas such as La Boca which drawls tourists.

A wall in La Boca

San Telmo claims to be the birthplace of tango and now boast a number of funky markets and gentrified streets. Many of the building were old “palaces” back in the day and it is interesting to tour the courtyards and balconies of the old dwellings since many have become stores, galleries or apartments. Foodies can delight in the San Telmo Mercado, an indoor market full of gourmet street food and antiques. Make a day searching for leather treasures and enjoying freshly baked empanadas.

Empanadas are a must try food in Argentina

Outside the metropolis of Buenos Aires lays a vastly diverse landscaped country. Iguazu Falls borders Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay in the tropics and is the widest system of falls in the world. The boat tour is truly a thrill ride that heads straight into the falls. You get the best views from the boat down below, but there is also a whole network of hiking trails up and around the falls that allow you to enjoy the nature and wildlife of the subtropical forest. The falls are unlike anything I have ever seen and really take your breath away.

The falls from the boat ride

There are few places in the world where one can ski in August. Argentina is one of them. Venture to Patagonia to explore a winter playground. Bariloche, a town about 15 minutes from the Cerro Cathedrale ski resort, is modeled after Swiss ski towns and is situated right on the edge of a massive lake. The desolate landscape of Patagonia along with the lake country makes the Bariloche area breathtaking and unlike the mountain of the northern hemisphere. The country also allows visitors to take advantage of local produce, showcasing the best steaks and Malbecs for a very reasonable price.

Bariloche lake side

That’s it for the summer travels! Stay tuned for my adventures abroad, traveling across Italy and Europe!

Exploring the World of NYC Coffee Shops

They say that New York never sleeps, and this might as well be totally the case given that every street is lined with at least two artisan over-priced small scale coffee shops, a Starbucks and a Dunkin’. Finding caffeine in the Big Apple is no challenge. In my two months there this summer, I have attempted to try as many independent cafes (although I will never give up my tired and true Starbucks chai) as I could during my commute, lunch breaks and lazy Sunday mornings. There is a whole world out there of coffee ambiances and gourmet creations to explore in the mega city.

Bluestone Lane: An Australian offshoot, Bluestone is located all over the city and specializes in gourmet drinks and “toasties” which are perfect for a quick light lunch. The locations tend to be smaller, making it more of a grab and go type of place. *Over a dozen locations all over the city.

Chacha Matcha: My favorite New York cafe, Chacha Matcha quickly became my go-to beverage pick-me-up everyday on my commute to work. As the name suggests, they specialize in matcha green tea, but create funky takes on the classic matcha latte with matcha chais, turmeric lattes and matcha lemonades. They also have a delicious assortment of matcha flavored pastries and chilled breakfast items. The crowd, along with the decor, is trendy and instagram obsessed. *Locations in Noho, Nomad, and Nolita.

Birch Coffee: Birch coffee has one of the best chais I have ever tasted. A bit of a unique place, they discourage technology by not having wifi or any outlets. Instead, they have a whole wall of books for customers to cozy up to and little conversation starter cards that attempt to create a hospitable and friendly unplugged atmosphere. Ideal for non-electronic studying! *10 locations across the city.

Think Coffee: A classy and spacious cafe, Think Coffee is a place a study. Standard coffee menu with breakfast and sandwiches, the environment at Think is extremely pleasant. They have outlets at every table, plush leather seats and play a calming mix of classical music which makes you even want to study. In a crazy city like New York, Think Coffee offers a reprieve from all the hustle and bustle outside. *About 8 locations across the city.

Joe’s Coffee: Joe’s has been a New York favorite for a while serving up a quality cup of “Joe” to many neighborhoods for years. They are simple coffee counter stores, but simple does the trick. If you need a quick coffee on the go, Joe’s is the place to go. *Over a dozen locations throughout New York.

Gregory’s Coffee: Another favorite, Gregory’s coffee is kind of like a local Starbucks. They have a large menu of drink options, food, and juices in there spacious cafes. What makes Gregory’s great is that they have a lot of vegan and gluten free food and drinks, making it a place for everyone. *23 locations in Manhattan.

Ralph’s Coffee: The Ralph Lauren Corporation, already pioneers in creating a truly immersive shopping experience, recently opened Ralph’s Coffee Shop inside select offshoot stores. I visited one inside the Flatiron Club Monaco and was delighted to get a delicious iced mocha within the stylish green tiled walls of the coffee outpost and the pleasantly light and airy atmosphere of the store. The coffee is all hand crafted, and the store is perfect for pictures. *Located at the Flatiron Club Monaco, Rockefeller Center, and the Upper East Side Ralph Lauren.

Maman: Maman is a favorite of the stylish Instagram crowd and it’s easy to see why. Besides having great coffee, a decadent lavender hot chocolate drink, and cute pastries, the cafe makes you feel as though you have been transported to the South of France with its cute decor and blue and white color scheme. The cups and plates are all super cute and photogenic too! *Locations in Soho, Tribeca, Nomad and Chelsea.

Citizens Of (Gramercy, Chelsea): While more of a popular brunch place, the trendy cafe has a barista bar serving up an array of exceptional drinks. The Australian styled spot has a refreshingly light interior that feels especially cool on a hot summer day. Come for the avocado toast and stay for the dirty chai (it’s seriously one of the best I’ve had). *Locations in Gramercy and Chelsea.

Everything I Ate at Smorgasburg

Back for a new post on my New York adventures!  This time around, it seems obligatory to dedicate a whole post to Smorgasburg, otherwise known as the ultimate foodie destination.  For those of you who do not know, Smorgasburg is a giant food festival that takes place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn every weekend in the summer.  Many famous outrageous food creations have come out or started at Smorgasburg and you have certainly seen pictures of some of their craziest frankenfoods on instagram.  Foods such as the Ramen Burger, the Spaghetti Donut, the Raindrop Cake and Big Mozz mozzarella sticks were all introduced at Smorgasburg. 

With nearly 100 different vendors at Smorgasburg, it might be just a tad hard to figure out what to get.  I recommend spending some time walking around and to just soak it all in.  It is amazing to see everyone come together and experience a common love for eating and food all in one small outdoor space.  Once you gather your bearings, it helps to plan it all out.  It also helps to know that you should be splitting everything, or you might explode from overeating! Here is everything I tried… although there was so much more.

Spaghetti Donut (Marinara sauce):  This crazy concept is new this year and is getting a ton of attention.  Everyone loves pasta and everyone loves donuts, so why not put these too popular carbs together?  While it might seem gross, the donut is pretty much just donut shaped slightly dried out pasta that is lightly fried to hold the shape.  Personally, I’m not a huge red sauce pasta fan, so I felt like it was underwhelming.  Others love it, however, and this unique food combo is definitely worth a try.  

Fluffy Pancakes (Blueberry cheesecake): Oh my god, these were heaven.  The airy souffléd pancakes were hands down the best pancakes I have ever tasted.  While the pancakes alone are a reason to get them, the different flavors which include blueberry cheesecake and creme brulée make the pancakes extra special and a perfect start to your Smorgasburg experience.  

Ramen Burger:  There was a ton of hype surrounding the Ramen Burger when it first came out a few years ago.  While the combo might seem random, the salty flavor-filled ramen pairs amazingly with the taste of the burger, out doing any bun while looking fabulous for that insta-feed.  

Chicken and Waffle (Buffalo Chicken Bites):  Someone, a genius perhaps, decided that chicken and waffles can easily become chicken in a picturesque waffle cone.  Easy to eat and oh-so delicious, the buffalo chicken bites inside the cone with a drizzle of creamy blue cheese dressing were the perfect portable festival food.  Coming from a buffalo fanatic, these were very worthwhile!

Prickly Pear Cactus Juice:  I have no idea what prickly pear cactus is but I do know that it makes for a vibrantly beautiful pink juice.  While the taste isn’t too special, the color of the juice is something to brag about.  Maybe not the best juice of all the many juices at the fair, but it’s refreshing and pretty!

Truffle Fries:  Sometimes a classic hits the spot.  The truffle fries from the gourmet fry station might be a tad basic, but they are simply delicious and make for the perfect side to any of the outrageous entree options at Smogasburg.  

Shaved Ice (Matcha):  Definitely my favorite food that I tried at the festival, this trendy dessert is the ultimate treat on a warm sunny summer day.  Think of it as fancy adult snow cone, but with two layers of flavored coconut cream, rice cereal, and deep natural coloring.  The matcha flavor was to die-for and tasted like a refreshingly upgraded Starbucks green-tea frappuccino. 

Coxinhas (Cheese and Dulce di Leche):  Smorgasburg is all about trying new foods from different places.  I decided to try coxinhas which is a kind of fritter from Brazil.  The cheese filled coxinhas was similar to a very melted mozzarella stick. They paired extremely well with the aioli sauce that goes with them.  The Dulce di Leche was like a bite of caramel heaven.  If the line for Big Mozz is too long, these make for a well worth it alternative. 

Where I Write

Throughout my blogging journey, I realize that I’ve probably mentioned my love for quaint coffee shops quite a bit. I’m not shy to admit my very basic girl tendencies which are sort of ironic because I don’t even like the taste of coffee. I love the idea of a calm peaceful space dedicated to quality drinks. Small coffee shops are always a joy and I find that there is no other space where I can be at my productive peak. I go when I need to study, socialize, write and experience food and drink in such a pure and wholesome form. Given this love, I figured I’d share where it is that I settle down with a chai latte and write to my hearts content.

Whether it be for studying or blogging, I find that quaint coffee shops offer the perfect little escape from the world around me. There, I can fully focus on the task ahead while relaxing and enjoying my surroundings. Being in college, the library and other spots on campus can often be high stress suffocating environments that distract me from doing my best work. That is why I escape. I leave to relax, take a few deep breaths and get to completing what seems to be an always growing pile of work.

At home: Penny’s Coffee (Linden Hills, Minneapolis)

While I still stand loyal to my multiple local Starbucks, I was super excited when Penny’s Linden Hills opened last spring since I really wanted a perfect work space coffee shop near me. Their drinks are incredibly flavorful and unique with specials such as the pink spicy peppermint latte (perfect for the ‘gram). They serve up a menu of gourmet crêpes and sandwiches, along with breakfast items and pastries. I will literally just come for their avocado toast which is probably the best I’ve ever had. They just recently started baking their own pastries which is giving me major FOMO since I’m back at school.

At school: Rye Berry Cafe (Hamilton, NY)

I’m currently sitting at Rye Berry right now, writing this, and eating their amazing homemade extra-strained yogurt which is definitely my ideal way of spending a Tuesday morning. Everything is made fresh in-house every morning from the coffee and tea syrups to all of the breads and baked goods. I think that you seriously cannot go wrong with any of Rye Berry’s breakfast or lunch options which range from a daily quiche special to biscuit sandwiches and cinnamon buns. They had a mean pumpkin spice latte this fall which made me actually enjoy the very sweetened taste of coffee.

At school part 2: Fojo Beans (Hamilton, NY)

The Fojo Beans cafe just recently opened after having a local gourmet coffee business for years. The shop specializes in their special blends and fancy teas while selling a changing menu of baked goods from local CNY bakeries. They have a variety of grab and go items such as rice puddings and overnight oats which are delicious and (fairly) healthy. The atmosphere is very relaxed and casual making it a great space to get work done and hang with friends. It is great that Hamilton is expanding their cafe culture with another new place to come in and study.

Go Good Uncle!

Meet Good Uncle, the new food delivery start-up taking select colleges on the east coast by storm.   The company is more generous than any friendly relative, as they will become your new best friend- a bff that specializes in simply bringing you food, on demand.  Good Uncle started at Syracuse by two ambitious students who were determined on elevating the college dining scene.  Just this year, they launched on 5 different college campus while being headquartered in New York City.  The idea is similar to Uber Eats, but with no delivery fee since the food is all created by Good Uncle through their Michelin starred food mastermind, Erik Battes.  They then transport it to one of their many handy delivery spots around the campuses with their super cool fancy food truck-like trucks.  Magical- right?

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Currently, Good Uncle is only at Colgate, Syracuse, Cornell, Lehigh and UMaryland, but they hope to expand in the near future (that future is very near given their popularity).  While you might not be at one of those schools, or might not even be in school, Good Uncle could come to you, and you will then, thanks to me, be in the know (ahead of the game, on the next big thing!).  Their food is simply delicious, and definitely beats most food found in college dining halls.  It ranges from very healthy options of salad and rice bowls to hangover-cure like foods such as the BBQ plater and the bacon, egg, and cheese brunch sandwich.  There’s a wide range which makes it easy for everyone to find something to suit their every desire.  Their menu changes monthly, ensuring that nobody gets tired of their extensive menu.  With that absent delivery fee, the prices are very reasonable for “to-go”-like food.  For a college student’s budget, it is cheaper than eating out at most places with dinners ranging from 7-12 dollars.

So you go to Colgate or any of the other schools that have Good Uncle?  Here is what I most recommend.

Tofu and Mushroom Bowl with the Mediterranean Fresh Fix Toppings:

Healthy and trendy, you can’t go wrong with one of Good Uncle’s bowls.  The tofu bowl is great for vegetarians and vegans since good tofu is often hard to come by in college.  It’s all on a bed of quinoa, and you have the choice of what kind of toppings/salad you want with the bowl.  I’m obsessed with the Mediterranean toppings which I get for both the tofu and the chicken bowl.  It’s the classic fixings of hummus, tzatziki, pita chips, feta, cucumber and tomato, along with a serving of arugula salad.

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Pesto Parmasan Pasta:

Good Uncle really nails the pasta thing which we will all be thankful for when winter comes around (Aka comfort food season).  The pesto pasta really hits the spot since they throw in copious amounts of sauce along with a generous serving of melted parmesan cheese.  Tasty, yes, and comforting!

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Seasonal Açai Bowl:

Ahh the food of the moment (and of instagram), Good Uncle makes it easy to keep up with the trends.  Who wouldn’t want an açai bowl delivered on demand?  It’s simple, but delicious and makes for a great addition to brunch.  The vividly purple base is topped with fruit and granola, and has shredded coconut and almonds mixed into it.  Unfortunately, the açai bowl is only available on weekends, but that might be for the best (we probably don’t need an açai bowl everyday!).

Buffalo Chicken Sandwich:

A good buffalo chicken sandwich for me is the ultimate guilty pleasure, and Good Uncle doesn’t let me down with their October special.  The chicken is topped with oozy buffalo cheddar cheese and a blue cheese dressing.  The bun is a nice soft brioche bun that is sweet enough to pair perfectly with the spicy chicken.

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Grilled Chicken Tenders:

Probably Good Uncle’s smartest creation, these chicken tenders are both extremely tasty and healthy.  Instead of being deep fried, the chicken is seasoned in a mix of flavorful herbs and grilled to perfection, ready to be eaten with a delicious dipping sauce.  The sauces are a highlight since they have a variety to choose from, each unique and amazing.  I recommend getting a couple to dunk the chicken into although the chicken is good enough on its own.

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To read and find out more about Good Uncle, visit my article for Spoon University here!

Your Guide to Scottish Cuisine (What and Where to Eat)

My trip to Scotland brought me all over the country which allowed me to experience a wide range of cuisine and foods.  Scottish food is underrated.  People seem to associate the “only” quality British cuisine with London, and while London is a huge culinary capital, Scotland is overlooked, especially as they provide so much industry and agriculture to the foodie world.  Take smoked salmon: the delicacy is a favorite in much of the world.  The best smoked salmon?  Scottish smoked salmon, fished straight out of the North Sea and prepared to perfection.  I recommend eating all that you can if you find yourself in Scotland.  And that isn’t all.  Scotland is known for its meats and game, along with cheeses, seafood and hearty breakfasts.  If you want to know exactly what foods to try, check out my post for Spoon University here! 

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Great places to try across Scotland:

Luigi’s (Dornoch, Scotland):  Dornoch is a tiny town up in the Highlands with a world famous golf course that attracts people from all over.  The best restaurant in the town is Luigi’s which is an excellent Scottish/Italian/seafood restaurant serving fresh oysters, lobster, and pasta.  The seafood here is amazingly fresh, and this is definitely the place to try fabulous North Sea oysters (which are, by there way, delicious).

-Boath House (Nairn, Scotland):  Boath House is a hidden gem; slightly off the beaten path, but wonderfully rewarding.  It has a very Scottish menu with most ingredients coming from the estate or nearby farms.  Everything taste extremely fresh and high quality.  The duck was one of my favorite dishes that I tried in Scotland since it was prepared perfectly and served with amazing foie gras.  The smoked salmon is also a thing of beauty.  Boath House is considered one of the top restaurants in Scotland outside of a major city and it is easy to see why.  It’s a great find and a great experience.

Scran and Scallie (Edinburgh, Scotland):  I talked more about this restaurant and the next one mentioned in my previous post about Edinburgh, but it’s worth mentioning them again due to their impeccably high quality Scottish food.  Scran and Scallie is where I tried haggis, a momentous occasion, and it is also where I had these dedacant savory pies.  You have to try haggis at some point, and a gastropub is the perfect place since they prepare in a gourmet fashion.  Scottish savory pies are really delicious in the most comforting of comfort food ways.

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The Wedgwood (Edinburgh, Scotland):  The Wedgwood is one of the top restaurants in Edinburgh, but what makes it really great is that they make an effort to serve true Scottish cuisine in a gourmet setting.  Ingredients include foraged mushrooms, Douglas fir pine, venison, pigeon, and sea spaghetti.  They put on the ultimate display of Scottish food to showcase the potential it holds.

Tail end (Dundee, Scotland):  You cannot go to Scotland without having fish and chips (unless you’re vegetarian, of course), and although the classic dish can be found in any pub, I recommend seeking out more contemporary chip shops that specialize in locally sustainable fish.  Tail end in Dundee does just that.  They take great pride in their “handsome halibut” and their delicious homemade tartar sauce.  The place is cute and trendy, making it the perfect spot to enjoy true Scottish seafood.

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-The Drouthy Cobbler (Elgin, Scotland):  Another mandatory experience in Scotland is going to a pub.  They are everywhere, but it can be a little difficult to a find a really good one that truly cares about the food they serve.  The Drouthy Cobbler is a little known hidden place in the small town of Elgin.  You can’t even access it from the main road, finding it instead in a little alley way.  The atmosphere is quaint and trendy but still feels pub-like and they serve solid Scottish food like smoked trout and salmon, sausage rolls, and bangers and mash.

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How to Spend 48 Fabulous Hours in Edinburgh Scotland

Hi there!  I just recently returned from a 10 day trip to Scotland where I pretty much road tripped from the Highlands all the way down to Edinburgh.  The whole journey was amazing, and I felt like I was really able to see the whole country.  However, more on that later (look out for a Scottish food post!).  One of my favorite places that I spent time in was the last place, Edinburgh which is a surprisingly bustling metropolitan center full of history and culture.  The last weekend was spent there, and although I definitely could have spent at least another day exploring the city, I was able to pack a lot in those two wonderful days.IMG_7297

Edinburgh isn’t very big in size and population compared to other landmark European cities, but the number of noteworthy sights, neighborhoods, and, quite frankly, tourists make the city feel larger than it is.  It takes on the vibe of a smaller and slightly less stylish London that is easier to walk around and harder to get lost in.  I arrived late in the afternoon on Friday having just played golf nearby.  The immediate cosmopolitan atmosphere of the city center, where my hotel was, made me realize that this place was different from the rest of Scotland.  Our hotel was very modern and stylish, as one would expect from a nice city hotel.

For dinner that first night, I ventured across town to the neighborhood of Stockbridge which is a hip high-end area bustling with coffee shops and gastropubs.  I went to a recommended restaurant called Scran and Scallie.  Nothing in Edinburgh is that far away, so my taxi ride to Stockbridge was an easy ten minutes and it easily paved the way for a light walk back to my hotel.  Scran and Scallie is a very popular gastropub serving traditional Scottish fare in a gourmet manner.  The clientele is young and fun, echoed by the quirky takes on traditional Scottish decor.  The menu appears very traditional with practically any pub fare you can think of available (meat pies, haggis, fish and chips), as well as some more contemporary options.  My Dad and I both opted for classic British entries, while I tried a Scottish specialty and he had an elevated Caesar salad for starters.  My haggis appetizer was a bit risky since I had never tried it before, but it was really good (the texture is oddly comparable to falafel) and I felt as though I was truly embracing the culture.  Our pies (mine was a seafood pie and he had a steak and ale pie) were deliciously comforting and really hit the spot after a day of golf in the rain.  The seafood pie, in particular, eluded flavor with salmon, cod, and shrimp mixed in with mashed potatoes.  Scran and Scallie is really the perfect place to indulge in local cuisine prepared beautifully in a fun atmosphere.

 

The walk back from Stockbridge was surprisingly easy and very pleasant.  The city feels very safe at night, and it is super cool to see all the sights and buildings lit up.  The famous hilltop castle that overlooks the city gleams brightly in a slightly eerie manner to the bopping crowd below.  Back at the hotel, my dad and I went to go check out Bar 1, 1 Square, and although my dad felt a little out-of-place, I found the Bar to be super trendy and cute.  They specialize in fancy schmancy gin and tonics (the hippest drink if there ever was one), as suppose to the traditional scotch collection that is found in most Scottish bars (more my dad’s cup of tea).

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Saturday was an early morning since there is so much to see and explore.  After a breakfast of Scottish smoked salmon (literally the best stuff ever) and black pudding (which is surprisingly delicious), I walked up castle hill which is a super cool walk to use my prepaid online ticket to Edinburgh Castle at 9:30.  On the way, there was a cute little farmer’s market that, if I was a local, I would totally be shopping at.  The castle is admittedly a tad touristy and you have to arrive right when it opens to beat the big buses, but it offers great views of the city and has a very interesting history.  I recommend going straight to the crown jewels exhibit since that line gets long very quickly and it’s probably one of the more impressive parts of the castle.  The castle takes about 2 hours, depending on the crowds, but you can totally condense it and choose to see less or more.

 

Tourist central of Edinburgh is the Royal Mile which you are fed directly into from the exit of the castle.  At first, the crowds are a little overwhelming but they filter out, and if you ignore all the street performers and touristy shops, the wide street is definitely worthwhile to walk down.  St. Giles Cathedral is a highlight and a must-see.  The Cathedral is huge and full of beautiful stain glass windows.  The tall blue ceiling is enough to take your breath away.  Farther down the mile, the crowds disperse and it’s fun to look around the admire the buildings and spirals.  The street finishes at the Holyrood Palace which is an official residence of the Queen.  It is fun to tour the palace and check out the old Holyrood Cathedral ruins since the place is rooted deeply in history.

 

After the mile, I, being a die-hard Harry Potter fan, wanted to check out some notable Harry Potter sites in the city, notably Victoria Street and the cafe where JK Rowling wrote the first couple books.  I grabbed a quick lunch at a little cafe and continued to venture across town back towards the castle, but, this time, instead of walking up the mile, I walked on the edge of old town which is bordered by a valley with the train station underneath.  The views from there are great and there is a park that lines the street.  Victoria Street is the most “aesthetic” street of Edinburgh and claims to be the most photographed.  It is also the street that JK Rowling based “Diagon Alley” after, and really looks like it is out of a movie.  The shops are super fun along the curved street too! I then made the pilgrimage to Elephant House which calls itself the “birthplace of Harry Potter” to take some pictures, and I also photographed “Tom Riddle’s grave” in the nearby Grey Friar’s graveyard (creepy I know).

 

By this time, it was already mid-afternoon, so I ventured over to New Town to walk around and shop.  A highlight of New Town is the Scott Monument and park, a huge gothic steeple that distinguishes itself from the Edinburgh skyline.  Dedicated to the author and thinker Sir Walter Scott, visitors have the ability to climb the monument which I opted not to do since I wanted to get over to the shops.  I enjoyed a couple of hours shopping at British and European shores (including Topshop, Zara, and Harvey Nichols, a fabulous British luxury department store) while also in search of a quilt, being the cliché tourist that I am.  Shopping around Edinburgh is delightful, and there is a surplus of great stores that are harder to find in the US.

 

For my second night in Edinburgh, I went to Wedgwood Restaurant which is a widely considered one of the best in the city complete with a Michelin star and four rosettes.  That being said, the restaurant is nice and simple with a modern atmosphere that isn’t at all stuffy.  The food is centered around local game and seafood with very Scottish ingredients prepared in an elevated manner.  I had a douglas fir smoked salmon dish and an interesting savory bread pudding which was to die for.  My dad had a seaweed vongole pasta starter which was very unique and venison with haggis for his entry.  The highlight of this special meal was the very sticky toffee pudding, a celebrated Scottish dessert and a must try for anyone traveling to Scotland.  Wedgwood is a great restaurant located conveniently on the Royal Mile where you really get to appreciate Scottish produce and fine cuisine.

 

That wrapped up my stay in Edinburgh as I had a 10 am flight the next day.  Overall, I found the city to be delightful and could have definitely spent another day there.  Alas, I was able to squeeze in a lot while I was there.  Highly recommend exploring this city for yourself, even if it is only for 48 hours.

Much Ado About Juice

In the world of health food trends, nothing is as prevalent, albeit slightly controversial than fresh pressed juices (I’m talking the kale and spinach filled, array of colors kind).  The craze started a while back and has remarkably stayed relevant as social media and different fad diets have influenced the world of juice.  Whether it be an occasional over-priced boujee juice with friends or an intensive juice cleanse, juicing shows no sign of slowing down and I am all for it (which is exactly why I’m writing this post declaring my love for juice).

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You might ask yourselves, what exactly does juicing do and are there actually any health benefits?  Well you see, I’m a picky eater when it comes to both fruits and vegetables.  I either love the food in question or hate it.  But, for some texture degrading reason, liquidizing produces makes a world of difference for my taste buds.  Raw carrots are too much of a pain to eat, but slush them up and throw them in a blender and I’ll drink it straight up (literally).  In other cases, putting broccoli (my nemesis) in a press with ginger, fruit, and cucumber completely disguises the otherwise nasty (sorry broccoli fans) taste.  Yes, some of the health benefits are potentially lost but, with high-pressure technology, most high-end juice companies manage to maintain the majority of health benefits of fruits and vegetables in the liquid form, hence why good juices are usually pretty expensive.

The Scoop on Juice Cleanses:  Controversial and definitely not for everyone, but juice cleanses or juice fasts are a great way to reset your diet and lifestyle while enjoying the many benefits of juices.  Juice cleanses involve drinking 6-8 freshly pressed juices for 1 to 5 days in order to pack your body with vitamins and nutrients.  It’s ideal to spend a couple of days before and after the fast to start phasing out large amounts of foods and unclean foods.  I, for instance, try to cut out all sweets, most carbs and large amounts of meat.  This helps make the cleanse easier on the stomach and makes it more efficient.  By fasting, you also give your digestive system a rest, allowing it to flush out any leftover toxins (you have to go to the bathroom a lot!) and reboot.  It’s ideal to do a cleanse after a vacation or a period of eating poorly since it truly does allow the body to restart.  After cleansing, I always feel very refreshed and energized.  The day after, I feel like I can do anything, and I won’t have any cravings for junk food!  The cleanse, as a bonus, helps get rid of sugar cravings which are great for people like me who constantly want sweets.  A juice cleanse is probably not ideal for intense athletes or anyone who needs a sufficient amount of food since you don’t intake anything near the daily recommended amount of calories.  With that being said, it is great for people who strive to live a wholestically healthy lifestyle.
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Juice Cafes:  The other week, I was vacationing in St. Michaels Maryland and discovered a new cafe that makes fresh juices, coffee, and lemonade in a cool, hip and relaxing cafe environment (think indy coffee shop but with juice).  Agave Arts and Juicing Company is super cute, and really promotes a healthy lifestyle.  The lounge area of the shop is filled with art and decor, making it perfect for that Instagram game (really what juice is about tbh).  This kind of place is becoming more common as Americans and young Americans especially become even more health conscious, following trends and innovative on how our culture looks at food.  Other companies offer a more to-go strategy to sell their juices as is the case with Minneapolis’s Juice So Good.  They have a couple of shops around the city, but the most convenient of them is inside a grocery store in a way that a Starbucks would be, offering fresh juices to-go and easy pick-up for cleanses.  It’s a great healthy alternative for a delicious pick-me-up.