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.

Advertisements

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. 

Summer in the City

So I might have completely neglected blogging the last couple of months, but being a busy college student doesn’t always lend itself to an abundance of free time. A lot has happened since I last wrote. I managed to somehow survive a brutal finals period, pack up all of my stuff, move out, and work and prepare at home for a summer move to New York City. I am now finally settled in the city after a whirlwind first two weeks. So far, it has been an amazing experience, and I am absolutely loving the thrill and the freedom of living in the middle of a giant metropolis. I could write endlessly about everything that I have done so far, but I’ll leave that up to future blog posts that I’m anxiously waiting to post. Anyways, what am I doing and how am I living in this wild fast-paced city?

I admit that I was a little apprehensive about moving by myself to a large city. This is the first time I have lived in a city and it’s definitely a far cry from the isolated and sheltered rural college that I attend in Upstate New York. Here, I have to fend for myself. No more ordering everything on Amazon and marching myself 5 times a day to the unlimited dining hall. I even have to figure out “cooking” my meals which, although I’m a huge foodie, is definitely not my forte. Trying to prepare meals has probably been my biggest struggle, and I have resorted to a lot of dinners full of energy bars and bananas (I have some work to do). I’m also having to figure out transportation methods which is interesting enough since New York has a ton of options, none of which are completely ideal (rural college=clueless Uber newbie here). I seriously love walking around though, and my daily walks to and from work is actually quite invigorating. New Yorkers are intent on their commutes and they walk with such purpose which I can totally embrace and go along with. It’s fast paced and lively, giving me energy for my busy workday.

Talk about distractions, walking around is the worst for my wallet (and tight budget). There are so many great little cafes and restaurants to grab quicks meals or coffee. They all somehow seem much more appealing than my spinach and avocado “salad” waiting for me at home. Good food is so dangerous, please take caution. Everyday, I see somewhere new and make a mental note to try it out, pushing back my homemade oats further down my meal prep timeline. What might be even more exciting and even more dangerous are the sheer number of amazing stores dotting the whole city. Just on my commuting walk alone, I have probably ventured into 5 different stores and I have started a list in my head of all the shopping districts that I need to visit for my soul and not for my wallet’s sanity. My internship’s in fashion, so it’s all in the name of work, right?

Work itself is amazingly interesting and fun. Even being an intern and doing interning things is still somehow exciting. The environment is so creative and lively and the days go by quick. I feel so professional which sounds cheesy, but I get a rush when I walk into the elevator with all these fashion bigwigs at the beginning of each day. While the city can be overwhelming, it means that there is nonstop excitement, leaving me busy and curious. I could write on and on, but I’ll leave that up to next week. Yesterday, I went the Smorgasburg… so stay tuned!

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.

A Weekend in Chicago

The Windy City has plenty to offer, especially during the holidays with fun displays full of festive cheer.  From art and shopping to food and culture, there is so much to enjoy!  I recently got my city fix in for a weekend, and it was honestly the perfect little itinerary for a short and fun getaway.  While I am nowhere near an expect on the city, here is where I suggest you eat, shop and explore in Chi-town.

Shopping

The Magnificent Mile on Michigan Ave is the place to go for shopping in Chicago.  Being one of the most famous streets in America, the glamour doesn’t disappoint.  Glitzy designer flagships align the street among large global chains and huge department stores, meaning there is something for everyone.  The window shopping is first class too!  For the holidays, the street is all decked out with fun little displays outside, in addition to amazing window decor from the designer stores.  I was there on Black Friday, and although crazy, the hustle-like atmosphere from the crowds was exciting and exhilarating, almost like out of a Christmas movie.  All of the department stores are worth checking out and, while not as large as their NYC counterparts, stores like Bloomingdales, Saks 5th Ave and Nieman Marcus prove to be alive in the holiday spirit.

IMG_9657

The scene at night of Michigan Ave on Black Friday

Perpendicular to Mich Ave is Oak St. which houses more designer stores, among nicer brands such as Barbour, AllSaints, and Madewell.  The area serves as a bit of an escape from the crowds of Michigan since it’s a little less grand and a little more quaint.  I recommend walking in and out of the surrounding streets to explore more of what’s around off of the high street.

Art

It is easy to make a day out of the Chicago Institute of Art and Millennial Park since they are right next to each other and I would 10/10 recommend doing so!  I was surprised at how vast the collections were at the art museum.  They literally have every sort of art imaginable, all wonderfully curated and displayed with countless masterpieces from artists of every time period.  Besides the more famous American art and impressionists collections that everyone goes to see, the museum has a super cool gallery of European armor from as early as the 7th century.  I can be a bit of a history nerd, so I found the display extremely interesting and well done.  They also have an exhibit of miniature rooms, like doll houses, that show scenes from different time periods and locations.

Down the street from the museum is the classic instagram famous mirrored sculpture otherwise known as the Bean.  I really wanted to check out the bean for the soul reason of getting a picture, but I ended up being more fascinated in it than I thought I would be.  Yes, it is touristy and crowed, but that is all apart of the fun and allure.  The shape of the sculpture creates many different illusions with the bean-shaped mirror that changes at every angle and location.  You can move anywhere around and you’ll get a totally different shot.  It also reflects a beautiful and well-positioned image of Chicago’s sky line, making it a delight for both tourists and locals alike (and of course insta-worthy!).

IMG_9830

Food

Like any major metropolis, Chicago has a wide range of cuisine and food specialities.  I’m honestly not a big deep dish fan (prefer NY pizza for sure, sorry Chicago), so I opted for other indulgences such as donuts.  Stan’s Donuts is a serious must try.  They are located right on busy Michigan Avenue, but have 8 other locations throughout the city with their cute little cafe-like shops also serving coffee and gelato.  I tried the nutella banana filled donut and the blueberry cream cheese pocket donut which were both amazing.  Honestly though, all of Stan’s array of classic and unconventional donuts looked fabulous (I’m that person that would try everything); I doubt you can go wrong.

IMG_9849

I checked out Eataly Chicago which was the first time that I’d gone to an Eataly.  Eataly is a food concept department-like store that specializes in imported authentic Italian food with the idea that food is a celebration and an essential part of culture.  The first stores started in Italy and they are now in many major cities around the world with Chicago being one of four in the US.  The indoor market has different stations serving up Italian specialities such as gelato and made-to-order cannolis.  There are different casual restaurants and many bars that allow you to “bar-hop” throughout Italy.

For a fun Sunday brunch, Luxbar in the gold coast neighborhood is classic and fun with signature entrées and delicious almond croissants.  And for a nice dinner, Brindille proves to be a fantastic dining experience with decadent and modern french cuisine.  Honestly, the highlight of the meal are the amuse-bouch potato beignets which taste like ridiculously good tater-tots.  The desert menu is also spectacular with options such as a plate of freshly baked cookies that will make you feel like a little kid on Christmas.

Culture

Both the Willis tower and the Hancock tower offer impressive views of the city and a different perspective from above.  You have to take a picture at the sky deck on top of the Willis tower.  Little clear capsules perturb out of the building making it seem like you are suspended above.  It is a little frightening, but super cool to look down (people with a fear of heights: beware).

Walking around the city during the holidays is an experience in itself, but to really get your Christmas fix, head down to Lincoln Park and see the Zoo Lights.  Every year from Black Friday to Christmas, the zoo puts up an over the top display of lit up animals and trees, complete with light shows to music.  It’s totally free and fun for everyone.

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?

IMG_7998

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.

IMG_8322

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!

IMG_8349

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.

IMG_8642

 

 

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.

IMG_8470

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! 

IMG_6754

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.

IMG_7241.JPG

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.

IMG_7133.jpg

-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.

IMG_7054

 

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).

IMG_7263

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).

IMG_6515-1

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.
IMG_6570-1.jpg

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.

 

Newest (and Sweetest) Minneapolis Summer Hotspots (as seen all over Instagram)

New food places nowadays have Instagram to thank (or not to thank) for making their businesses go viral, literally.  While visual presentation has always played a big role in the appeal and popularity of food, social media has moved its importance to sky heights, making it crucial for “popular” food joints to make, for lack of a better word, beautiful food.  Food trends are also more prevalent than ever thanks to the rise of social media, especially Instagram stories since everyone wants to prove and brag to the world that they eat well and some-what healthy.  As for trendy Instagram-worthy places in the Minneapolis area, two new places stand out as being the definition of this; cool, hip, and delicious.

MNice Cream (NE Minneapolis):  The name might be cheesy, but MNice Cream is the new “It” ice cream spot for the summer.  Serving up crazy over the top soft serve creations, the original food truck and shop inside a northeast warehouse has been gathering quite the line.  The concept is classic and simple.  You order either vanilla, chocolate, or vegan/dairy-free soft serve, then choose a creation (a mixture of toppings) from the menu or create your own masterpiece.  The toppings are over the top (think eatable glitter, churros, and homemade donuts, along with the traditional and every variety of candy), and you have the option to get a colorful cone and/or a flower which is purely for the Instagram aesthetic.  The homemade soft serve itself is really delicious as it is perfectly creamy and flavorful, but the toppings truly make the place an experience, one that is perfect for a hot sunny Minneapolis day.

Above are some examples of amazing creations at MNice Cream brought to you from their Instagram.

IMG_5788

My MNice cone was the dirty worms creation (oreo, gummy worms, chocolate sauce, and sparkles) with an added churro donut and flower on a waffle cone.

Nautical Bowls (Minnetonka):  On the other side of the health spectrum (or at least we hope) is Nautical Bowls, a concept cafe that solely sells acai and such bowls which, if you live under an Instagram-less rock, are breakfast-like parfaits with a base of acai sorbet.  While this might sound sweet, the bowls are more like a tangy super thick smoothie topped with fruit, nuts, and seeds.  At Nautical Bowls (the name is derived from being near Lake Minnetonka), you have the option to create your own (see a trend?) or order from a couple of pre-designed creations.  Acai isn’t the only base available.  In fact, it’s probably the least exciting.  There are 5 options which you can choose multiple of per bowl: the classic acai (deep purple), pitaya (beautifully pink dragonfruit), matcha (green tea), coconut with activated charcoal (a deep grey color), and chia seed pudding.  Once you choose your base which is arguably the most exciting part, you choose 4+ toppings.  They have a huge variety of “superfoods” such as bee pollen, goji berries, hemp hearts, in addition to fresh fruit and butters such as peanut butter and almond butter.  The result is a colorful bowl chock full of nutrients and yumminess.  The experience is literally amazing, as the taste of the bowls is super unique and satisfying.

Above are two bowls that a friend and I ordered at Nautical Bowls.  I had a base of pitaya, coconut and chia seeds with banana, strawberry, bee pollen and coconut on top.  I was in heaven.  My friend had a similar thing, but with acai instead of chia seeds.  The colors were so vibrant.

The cute interior of Nautical Bowl is supposed to reflect a nautical theme which feels really fresh and cheerful.  It might seem kind of random, but if you were boating on the lake, the shop would be a perfect place to stop by after!

Don’t wait, and adventure to these spots for the amazing food and photos waiting to happen!  It will be totally #instaworthy!