Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Top 12 Things I'll Miss About NYC

I have three more days until I move back to South Carolina. Three days. I can't believe it. The summer has flown by. When I first came up here, I decided that I could never live up here long term, not even for a year or two. However, as I got more and more adjusted each week, I slowly fell in love with New York City. I love the South, but I've learned to love it up here too.  I could see myself living here for a year or two. Of course, that's what everyone says when they move to the city, and they usually end up staying longer than that. I'm not planning a move in the near future, but I do plan on making as many weekend trips as my schedule/wallet allows :)

As promised in my Top 12 Things I Miss About the South post, I came up with a list of things I'm going to miss about NYC...

1. The food
  • New York has so many great restaurants. I've loved getting out of my comfort zone and trying so many ethnic foods while I've been up here. I've never been a timid or safe eater, but I've gotten to the point where I'll just order something off the menu even if I have no idea what it is. Everything has been good so far!
2. Cute little bakeries/coffee shops
  • So maybe this could technically fall under the food category, but it's a different category in my book. I absolutely love all the local bakeries and coffee shops up here. I even love the coffee man with his little cart that parks outside my office building each morning. Since I've been up here, I've tried to avoid chains like Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts and instead try to visit as many local places as I can. Of course, I have gotten Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts here and there for sake of convenience since they're located on practically every street corner in Manhattan. 
3. Endless list of things to do and explore
  • There are so many things to do up here. While I sometimes enjoy doing touristy things, I've grown to love the non-tourist things New York has to offer and find myself staying away from the crowded, touristy parts of the city. 
4. The shopping
  • I'm going to have withdrawals when I come back. Planning to get my last shopping trips in this week - might have to stock up a little bit :)  
5. The people I've met
  • I've met some great people since being up here and will miss seeing them all the time. 
6. The spirit of adventure
  • You have to be somewhat adventurous if you've made the decision to live in New York. While there are some adventurous people in the South, it's more of the norm up here. People just pick up and move either to or from NYC all the time.  In the South, it's very common to graduate college, get a good job, settle down and get married and then have kids all within a span of five years. People don't have "five year plans" up here. They don't always plan ahead and instead just go with the flow. I kinda like it. 
7. Diversity
  • I haven't been exposed to a lot of diversity growing up. The area I grew up in in South Carolina is predominantly white. In New York, it truly is a melting pot. It's been really neat to be exposed to so many different people and cultures in one place.
8. Healthy lifestyle
  • People eat so much healthier up here. While fast food is available, people don't eat it like we do in the South. I've had fast food two times since being here. Granted, this may be due to the fact that there's not a Chick-fil-a around, but still :) Vegan and vegetarian restaurants are everywhere, and regular restaurants serve healthier food in general. People eat salads up here like they do Chick-fil-a sandwiches and hamburgers down South. I know, two references in one paragraph - too much maybe? Cut me some slack - I miss it a lot.
9. Reading time
  • Thanks to the subway, I've gotten in so much reading since I've been up here. 
10. The relief from humidity - sort of
  • It can still get hot and muggy up here, but it's not as bad as South Carolina. It was 66 and sunny when I walked to the subway one morning last week. It felt amazing. However, like I mentioned a previous post, there aren't lakes and pools to cool off in when it does get hot up here. 
11. Cheap manicures and pedicures
  • You can easily find salons around the city that offer $20 mani/pedi combos. Such a good deal! 
12. Seeing views like this...

Sunset at Chelsea Pier

View from the ferry on the way to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

View from Williamsburg, Brooklyn

View from South Street Seaport

Taken from my old rooftop garden at the Webster

And there you have it! Summer 2012 is coming to a close for me, and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to live and work in this wonderful city. To sum it up in a few words - I really do love New York.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Smorgasburg: A Foodie's Dream

Smorgasburg combines two of my favorite things - flea markets and food. It's basically an outdoor food flea market that takes place each Saturday through November in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. From 11am to 6pm, approximately 100 food vendors gather and sell their products. I've been twice now, and I highly recommend it if you're ever up here. Williamsburg is extremely easy to get to from Manhattan, but it's shocking how different it is from the hustle and bustle of the city.  It's a much slower pace and a lot less crowded - there aren't even walk signs at intersections! It's a very cute, artsy neighborhood - kinda reminds me of downtown Asheville, NC.

Back to Smorgasburg. Sorry.

I went alone the first time I went to Smorgasburg, not knowing exactly what to expect. I still thoroughly enjoyed myself, but I wished I had come with someone so we could try out more food. Some of the portions being sold were small enough where I could try a few different things, but some of them are quite large.

My sister and my best friend Emily visited me two weekends ago and we headed to Smorgasburg on Saturday morning. I wanted to them to see some of the other boroughs besides Manhattan while they were here, and I also enjoyed getting to try more food between the three of us. Here are a few of the things I've tried over my two trips....
This place specializes in hand made pigs in a blanket - such a fun and unique idea

Oh my goodness. This donut was from a bakery called Dough in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. It was incredible. New York knows how to do donuts. 

Frozen mini smores
Brisket sandwich from Mighty Quinn's. Very moist, juicy and full of flavor. The line for Mighty Quinn's booth is consistently the longest line, so you know it's good. 

Southern Fried Chicken Taco. I had to try it as soon as I saw the words "southern fried chicken." Southern food/comfort food is very trendy up here. The taco was actually really good. NY does tacos a little different than the tacos I'm used to. They're usually made with a variety of different meats (shrimp, tilapia, carnitas, chicken, etc.), fresh lettuce, cotija cheese, cilantro sprigs, picked onions and are usually free from grease. Delicious.

Hope this has given you a taste of Smorgasburg (pun intended). Like I said, I highly recommend it and it's also something that's unique and not super touristy. 

When you go, you'll also get to enjoy these views while you're there...

Very cloudy on my first visit

So beautiful. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Best Cupcakes in NYC...

One my favorite things about New York is the abundance of cute little bakeries and coffeeshops. I love it. If I had the time/money/metabolism to visit a different one each day, I would do it in a heartbeat.

That being said, I have had the chance to try out quite a few bakeries while being up here. I've visited several different places, but my work also serves "Cupcakes & Cocktails" every other Wednesday, which has allowed me to test out a few cupcakes without ever leaving my desk.

Being a completely unofficial self-proclaimed cupcake critic, I decided to make a list of some of the bakeries I've been to along with my opinions.  In my defense, even though I'm no professional baker, I do love to make cupcakes and have been told they're quite good :)

Note: I have not been to ALL the bakeries in NYC - that would take hours upon hours of exercise :) However, these are a few places worth visiting if you're in the area. I'm sure there are plenty of other wonderful bakeries up here, but I unfortunately haven't been able to visit each one. 

1. Sprinkles Cupcakes - The Original Cupcake Bakery
  • Sprinkles is known for starting the cupcake trend, so I had high expectations going in. If you've ever watched the show Cupcake Wars,  one of the judges, Candace Nelson, is the founder of Sprinkles Cupcakes. They did not disappoint. I had the raspberry cupcake with raspberry icing. So delicious - very impressed. 

  • If you've ever seen the show DC Cupcakes, then you're familiar with Georgetown Cupcake. The bakery is based in DC, but thankfully they have one other location in Soho. I've been there twice now and have been impressed both times. I got a salted caramel cupcake the first time and a key lime pie cupcake the second. 

  • Baked by Melissa specializes in mini cupcakes. These aren't the mini cupcakes you make in a mini muffin pan, they're even smaller - literally bite-size cupcakes. The upside is that you can try out several different flavors. The downside? Not quite as filling. I've tried several different flavors now and loved them all. They are so cute and extremely moist, which can be hard to achieve with mini cupcakes. 
Here's a picture from their website to give you an idea of what they look like. 

  • Remember that time I raved about Crumbs' Apple Cobbler cupcake? And then I went back and my chocolate peanut butter cupcake was super dry? So sad.  I couldn't believe it. I had fallen in love at first bite with their Apple Cobbler cupcake, and then been slapped in the face when I went to get more. Come on Crumbs - I need you to redeem yourself. 
My love. 
  • I haven't been to the actual storefront in the West Village, but my work served these one week at "Cupcakes & Cocktails" and they were amazing. I got the red velvet and it was wonderful, but everyone also raved about the other flavor being served which was some kind of banana cupcake with chocolate frosting. Apparently you can create your own cupcake (pick your base, filling and frosting) in the store and they make it right in front of you. Highly recommend this place. 
  • This bakery has made quite the name for itself,  partly due to its appearances on Sex and the City and mentions on various shows and movies. However, I had one of their Orange Meringue cupcakes and wasn't impressed, so technically it shouldn't be on post titled "The Best Cupcakes in NYC." The icing is extremely light (which some people like) and the cake was a little dry. I've heard their other desserts are delicious, so it's definitely worth checking out. 

I've tasted cupcakes from a few other places, but maybe I'll save those for another post. Plus, I don't want you to think I just gorge myself on cupcakes all the time :) I'm only up here a few more weeks - might as well test out as many as I can, right?

If you're ever in New York, please eat a cupcake for me!

Monday, August 6, 2012

BlogHer Recap

Mommy bloggers and tons of free stuff.

That sums up BlogHer in one sentence.

Okay, so maybe there is a lot more to BlogHer than that. It actually is a really cool event and I enjoyed getting to experience it. The conference had close to 5,000 attendees. Attendees were able to hear from guest speakers likes Martha Stewart and Katie Couric. President Obama even addressed all the attendees via live video feed on the first day.

BlogHer is all about building relationships and getting your name out there while connecting with other bloggers and brand reps. There are also numerous workshops and parties throughout the weekend. The agency I work for attended BlogHer on behalf of several of our clients. Here are a few pictures of our booth...

Our "business card." Banana flash drives with all our product and contact info. 

The "greenhouse." Doesn't it look awesome? The day before this space was just a 10'x30' section of a huge ballroom. 

More greenhouse pictures. 

Our fruit carving station! We brought in a fruit and vegetable carver from DC - he was so great! 

How awesome is this? 

Between our shifts, we were able to walk around to the other booths. It's really neat to be able to see all the various ideas from the brands come together in one place - lots of creativity. 

Remember the free stuff I mentioned at the beginning?  We were able to get in on some of that as well :) I came home with a nice little tote bag full of samples.