Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mermaids Eat Brunch Too

I think I speak for all of New York when I say "I'm over this cold weather." This freezing month of February is just too much to handle right now and the feeling of hopelessness is beginning to creep in. That's why, last weekend, I needed a little dose of the shore as a reminder that Summer will eventually come back and all is not lost. 

Given that I wasn't in position to jump on a plane to the tropics, I instead headed to the Upper West Side for brunch at the Mermaid Inn with my friend, Astrid. Last Saturday, while sitting with my back to the window, enjoying old bay fries, I almost forgot that Manhattan was covered with muddy snow and my weather app still said "feels like 6 degrees."

This place is honestly the cutest and reminds me of some of my favorite seaside restaurants in Avalon, New Jersey, where I vacation every summer. From the painted white wood, to the beautiful bar and light fixtures, it's all just so perfect. Also, I'm a sucker for a well arranged gallery wall. 

Everything on their menu looks amazing, both in the "mouth watering" sense and the "adorable use of font" sense. Also, side note: I'm obsessed with their website design. 

Astrid ended up having the tres leche challah french toast with strawberries, while I ordered the egg whites with toast and chicken and apple sausage, substituting the lyonnaise potatoes for old bay fries. 

I purposely wore an outfit that hinted at nautical style without going overboard (pun totally intended). I absolutely love this short sleeved striped sweater from J.Crew. It's warm and heavy but not overbearing, and p.s. It's on sale! 

Oh, and did I mention the fries? Honestly, these fries! I can't even. This is the first time I've seen old bay fries outside of shore towns, so this discovery was particularly exciting for me. If you don't know, old bay is a type of seasoning, and if you've never tried them, you should, because you might just be missing a part of your soul and not even know.  

Astrid was looking casually flawless, as always. 

Cheers! Astrid had the Fresca, while I enjoyed Gone with the Gin (let's be real, I ordered it because of the name).  

Anyway, if you're in New York and the weather's got you feeling down, I suggest a trip to the Caribbean... and if that's not feasible, try the Mermaid Inn.

 If all else fails, just keep your chin up and remember the wise words of Lily Pulitzer:"It's always Summer somewhere." 
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Monday, February 23, 2015

Fashionably Late Oscar Planning

There's nothing like throwing together a last minute party, am I right? While having a small Oscars party has been on my mind for a while, that doesn't mean I actually did anything about it until yesterday morning. That's when I pulled myself together and started prepping the adorable party I could see in my mind and had promised my roommates.  

The menu included classic salted popcorn, caramel corn, carrots with hummus, gummy bears, chocolate covered raisins, trail mix, Twizzlers and champagne, of course. Basically all of the award show essentials, because there's really nothing better than judging celebrity dresses while eating caramel corn in sweatpants. 

For a fun twist, I made little drink tags with all of the best actor and actress nominees. Instead of ballots, everyone chose their drink tag base on their prediction. I was personally routing for Reese Witherspoon and Benedict Cumberbatch. Although, Eddie Redmayne is just so adorable that I couldn't even be upset.   

As soon as I opened this bottle, the cork ricocheted off of the ceiling and shot back to the table. This is exactly why opening champagne gives me anxiety.  

Our predictions all ended up being incorrect, except for my roommate Julie, who came a little later and chose Eddie for her drink tag.  

Fun fact: I always make my friends do two cheers. The first one is real. The second takes way longer and is solely for picture purposes. 
And, that's about it. I loved how everything ended up coming together, and we all had such a fun night with a ton of laughs! If you're throwing you're own party super last minute (literally the day of, in my case) and want some advice, here are three quick tips: 

1. Work with What you Have. 
 First, decide on a look you want and use what you already own that works. I pictured my Oscars table with a relatively simple spread. I wanted warm tones, pops of color and a hint of glamour. Once I knew this, I was able to do a mental inventory of what I already had that would match. I already had the brown packing paper, the gold chevron glasses, the cake stand, and white twinkle lights. I even had the rainbow sequins in a desk drawer (typical, I know).

2. Buy Only the Essentials.
Once you know what you already have, you'll probably still need a few things at the store. My best advice is, "don't go overboard." As a college student, I'm always pretty budget conscious, and most of what I plan to spend for a party like this gets spent on food. In terms of food, think about budget friendly crowd pleasers. When planning a menu, try to pick recipes with ingredients you already have on hand. It'll save you money and make your life that much easier. Obsessed, as I am, with baking, I already had almost everything I needed to make caramel corn, which made it the perfect choice. 

3. Small Details Make the Difference
Think of cute little ideas that will make your party stand out. These are the things that people will remember. The Oscar drink tags were an idea I had last week, and although super simple to make (same day printing at Walgreens plus some string and a hot glue gun), everyone loved the fun detail. 
So get planning! Or, you know, don't and just wait until the day of. 
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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Just Call Me Agatha

If you have yet to see the Grand Budapest Hotel, you should probably make it a priority. Not only is the movie nominated for best picture, it is also brilliant and hilarious with stunning cinematography. Of course, I expect nothing less from Wes Anderson. 

 In the movie, the adorable Agatha works at an equally adorable pastry shop called Mendl's where she makes Courtesan au Chocolat. These are essentially three tiered french pastry puffs filled with chocolate and beautifully decorated. 

Naturally, when the film's team released the recipe, I had to try it. 

If you're interested, below is the instructional video with the recipe from the film. 

I first made these Courtesan au Chocolat at home for my family, and we enjoyed them for Christmas Eve dessert.

 This time around, I made them at school for a Campus Activities Board screening of the Grand Budapest Hotel. They are honestly so delicious, and not too difficult as long as you have a little patience. 

Each time I make these pastries, I feel as though I learn a little more about the process and make a few mental notes. Next time, I'll definitely make the icing a little thicker and do the piping work before stacking. I won't rest until they're perfect enough to be sold at Mendl's.

In the meantime, I entered them in a little contest held by La Cuisine Paris. La Cuisine Paris is a french cooking school in Paris where I took a macaron making class last year. They are looking for the best photo of a "french inspired homemade sweet creation." The winner gets a small baking goodie bag from Paris! If you feel so inclined, you can vote for me here by liking my photo. I would certainly appreciate the support! 

Now all I need is a Mendl's box for packaging! 

P.S. With all of this talk of Mendl's, I wanted to share a few Grand Budapest inspired gifts on my wish list. 

[Mug] So perfect; I can already imagine sipping coffee in the morning with a french pastry. 

[Illustration] This beautiful hand painted illustration will definitely be included in the gallery wall of my future home. 

[Necklace] Super tiny, intricate and adorable; it would be so fun to see if anyone recognizes the reference. 
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Monday, February 16, 2015

Treat Yo Self 2015

While most celebrated Valentine's Day on Saturday, a few friends and I celebrated a different kind of holiday. For months we've been talking about having a Treat Yo Self 2015 and on February 14th it finally happened. 

 If you don't know what Treat Yo Self is, watch the video below from Parks and Recreation. Those writers are seriously geniuses because everything about this concept is perfect. 

We had so many ridiculous activities on our itinerary. It included everything from "brunch with mimosas" to "pretend we're buying a puppy."  There was never a chance of us getting through it all, but what can I say? We're optimists. I've documented the day's adventures below. 

Side note: I apologize in advance for how long this post is and the amount of pictures I included. Just take comfort in the fact that it's not even a fourth of what I took. 
Alex, Tara and I started our day with an early 10am brunch at the Cookshop in Chelsea. It took us forever to find a place for brunch. We definitely didn't think through the fact that Valentine's Day might make reservations difficult. But the stars aligned when we found the Cookshop. Weeks ago when we made the reservation online, Alex and I wrote in the comments section "Instead of saying Happy Valentine's Day, can you please say 'Happy Treat Yo Self 2015?'" We fully expected nothing to come of it. 

Enter Sean Patrick. All I can say about our waiter is that I want to be his best friend. The first thing he said when he came to our table is "Are we ready?" To our puzzled faces he said "for Treat Yo Self 2015!?" We cheered. There was not a single time he visited our table without uttering the words "treat yo self."

Our cocktails were amazing. Alex had the Gentleman Collins, Tara had the Kumquat Ginger Margarita and I had the Blood Orange Mojito. We had a debate with Tara about whether it was too early for tequila in her drink, but Sean Patrick quickly set us straight on that one: "Not on Treat Yo'self Day!"

I forgot to mention Tara and I cabbed it to the restaurant because, well, "treat yo self." Also the subways were a mess, but mostly "treat yo self." 

I had the egg white omelet with roasted butternut squash, sautéed spinach, herbed goat cheese, and sage-walnut pesto. I'm hungry just thinking about it. There were so many delicious looking menu items, that Alex couldn't even decide. He just told Sean Patrick to surprise him, and the Huevos Ranchos that arrived to our table did not disappoint.  

Alex brought Treat Yo'self personalized M&M's to brunch. Obviously, Tara and I died because he's perfect. They said some of our plans for the day like "Venti Coffees," "Cupcakes," "Mimosas," and of course "Treat Yo'self!"

There was no way we were leaving without taking a picture with Sean Patrick.

Best Buy
This stop was a spontaneous decision that ended up being a high point of the day. I was having problems with my camera's memory card which necessitated the purchase of a new one to take photo's for the day. I intended to buy a $10 card, but in true Treat Yo Self Day spirit, Tara and Alex talked me into buying the 8GB Eyefi Mobi. I fully expect it to change my life and here's why: it has the ability to send pictures from my Canon camera wirelessly to my iphone through wifi and I'm assuming magic. All I can say is, I am about to step up my insta game

We left the store, but not before Tara and I did the entire Donna and Tom treat yo self monologue for some employees. They were about to roll on the floor from laughing so hard.  

This is the first picture with my new memory card! The other girl on the escalator is clearly not as into it. 

"Buy something small and unnecessary from the home goods section of Anthropologie" was something I put on our itinerary. I was incredibly successful too, with the purchase of this adorable tea towel. A birthday cake recipe is printed on it, and I have big plans to see if it actually works. As of now, I'm skeptical.

As a bonus, Anthro was giving out heart shaped mini chocolate raviolis! Treat yo self, am I right?

Chelsea Market
Anthropologie is in Chelsea Market so, of course, we looked around afterwards. It's definitely one of my favorite spots in the city. If you're in New York and haven't been, I promise it's worth the trip. 

Artists & Fleas spotlights local artists and vendors. It is always super busy and packed with so many unique things for sale. Tara explained it the best when she told us, "I just said 'excuse me' to a mannequin." Alex treated himself to a Snoopy shirt. 

Why wouldn't Treat Yo Self Day involve pretending to buy a puppy? At this point in the day we were joined by our friends and fellow treat yo self enthusiasts, Will and Carter. 

We absolutely fell in love with this little guy. If we had adopted him I would have wanted to name him Aziz after Aziz Ansari and in honor of Treat Yo Self Day. 

Venti Starbucks Coffees
I have never had a Venti Starbucks drink before and now I know why. No one needs a coffee taller than their face. That being said, I still finished my Skinny Vanilla Latte in under 10 minutes. 

We also had plans to give the Starbucks workers names of Parks and Recreation characters instead of our own. They never asked, so naturally I just borrowed their marker and wrote them myself. 

This is my favorite picture of the day. Shout out to the lady who had her friend hold her cigarette just so she could take this picture for us. 

N.Y. Cake 
This was another one of my additions to the itinerary. I've always wanted to go to N.Y. Cake which is a wholesale baking supply store.  They have every baking related item you could ever dream of owning. It was so completely exciting and overwhelming that I nearly had a panic attack of joy inside (not joking, ask Tara or Alex). I wanted to treat myself to something wholly adorable and unnecessary and what I found was a cookie cutter shaped like a scotty dog. It was just perfect. 

This aisle smelled like chocolate and I never wanted to leave. 

Will bought us all Disney Princess rings that I'm assuming were supposed to be cupcake toppers. He then distributed them according to personality. I'll leave you to guess exactly who's who. 

We had plans to recreate this perfect Parks and Rec scene of Tom coming out of a dressing room wearing all stripes and telling Donna "Treat Yo Self." 

I'm fully impressed with the result. #nailedit

Of course, Will and Alex bought these hats too.

Dinner and Drinks
Will recommended this victorian inspired restaurant called Lillie's for dinner and drinks. He had me at "victorian." This place was so beautiful. There was live music and the food was great. Not to mention, taking a quick break from nonstop running around the city was just what we needed.  

Oh. My. God. These sweet potato fries. 

Is there a better way to end a day than with cupcakes? I'll answer that. No. No, there is not. Cupcakes were on the Treat Yo Self Day itinerary from the start and so we stopped in City Cakes after dinner.

We got Salted Caramel, Double Chocolate, Red Velvet and Cookies n'Dream (Nutella stuffed with an Oreo). It was buy 3 get one free, which was just icing on the "cup" cake. (get it?)

Our day ended in Will's apartment, eating cupcakes and M&Ms while watching Family Feud and 500 Days of Summer. I couldn't have asked to have spent a better day with better people. 

So the way I see it, there are really 2 take aways from all of this: 

1. Treat Yo Self. Seriously do it. It's so fun and good for your mental health.
2. That Venti Starbucks drink is most definitely unnecessary. 
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P.S. In case you're wondering, we are already planning Treat Yo Self 2016. See you next year.