Happy July Fourth Weekend

Oh America, the land of the extremes and dreams. Being an adventurous gal, I snagged the opportunity to visit Tampa, Florida during the holiday weekend. A trip to Florida for most tourists would mean a visit to Florida Keys, Orlando, or Miami. Rarely does a visit to Tampa occur and if it does one would visit the amusement parks and the aquariums. However, instead of hitting up the tourist destinations I was able to spend the past few days as a local Tampan — all thanks to having a friend who resides in Tampa!

During my three full days in Tampa I ate, lazed, and jumped on puddles — sounds boring? In fact, I had a lot of fun, it was a relaxation to my vacation.

Day One:

FullSizeRenderFrom my hometown there are discount airlines that offer quick and cheap flights to Florida. I chose Frontier and spent $122 round trip, which is quite a steal considering I booked at the last minute and had to check-in my luggage, as well.

As I arrived to Tampa, I was immediately introduced to Tres Leches and the famous Cuban Sandwich. Tres Leches, also known as Three Milk Bread, is a moist and soft sponge cake soaked heavily in a mixture of three milks: condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream. As you poke your spoon inside the cake not only does the bread break apart but a stream of milk flows out. Imagine eating a cake with melted ice cream. All your childhood dreams fulfilled in one dessert.

Cuban sandwich is a no-frill delicious grilled sandwich made with ham, pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard and Cuban bread. It taste best when pressed and warmed like a panini sandwich.

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The notable activity of that night was the Silver Moon Drive-In Theatre. Are there any Riverdale fans? If so, I was saddened with the episode on the Twilight Drive-In Theatre as it was about to be torn apart. Luckily, before the future extinction of all drive-in theatre’s, I’m glad to say I can cross this off my bucket list now!

It was a fun experience and Wonder Woman was exciting. Who can ever deny a movie with Chris Pine? Although, the real winner of this film was the wondrous fighter Gal Gadot. The most intriguing part of this whole experience was how the audio would come through the radio. All this time I always wondered if there was an amplified speaker that would provide the audio but I was wrong.  Also, the weather was a bit rainy but it suited the movie especially during the action scenes. However, the constant windshield could be a bother to people while watching a movie.

On to Day Two:

An early morning start to the day as I was able to cross off another item on my bucket list. I embraced my adventurous self and tried out an extreme activity — gun range. The sound is frightening; however, it is exhilarating. The gun range does give an extra kick of adrenaline. If you asked me five years ago if I ever would go to a gun range, I would have cried and shouted “no way.”

After numerous attempts, I semi-shot the bullseye!

The next stop of the day was Sonny’s BBQ! The amount of food that I ate was enough to recharge me for the rest of the day.

I indulged in a lot of BBQ that weekend but then what would Fourth of July be without the smoky hickory BBQ sauce slathered all over the ribs?

The picture on the left is a corn fritter, which is corn mashed together and deep fried with a layer of dough on the outside. The platter is perfect to be shared amongst two people. Out of the variety of the meat given I enjoyed the ribs the most! The best part of this restaurant is the different variations of BBQ sauce they have for us to slather onto our meat. The sides were just as yummy especially the corn bread and the garlic bread.

I enjoyed my Sonny’s BBQ experience and I’m hoping that it decides to expand outside of the Southern territory come to the North East! New Yorkers love BBQ just as much as the South does!

Last day:

The morning was spent checking out a local flea market. After rummaging through a bunch of battered old dusty comic books, I opted to buy a jar of honey and handmade dreamcatcher instead. Since the weather was nice for once, I ate lunch outside in a Nathan’s Hot Dog stand — what a classic tradition for Fourth of July!

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Do not fret, all 6 hotdog’s were not mines. I have no plans to enter the Hot Dog competition.

To end the last night, I visited the antiquated Ybor City. The pictures below show the deserted atmosphere of this short street. It would have been more fun on a Friday or Saturday night as there are a lot of bars and smoke shops. I can imagine the night life would be bustling but during the daytime it was quiet. After all, the chicken was bored and waiting for people to come entertain him.

Can I just mention how proud I am that I was able to snap a picture of a palm tree before coming back home. Since I was not visiting any beaches I was nervous that I would come back to the land of fading grasses and falling brown leaves without properly viewing the palm trees of Florida.

The Columbia Restaurant is located in Ybor City and is known to be the oldest (still-operating) restaurant in Florida. Along with being the oldest Spanish restaurant in the United States. They also have a gift shop and it was the only place in Tampa where I was able to find a postcard!

 

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Instead of dining in Columbia Restaurant I dined at the famous food chain Waffle House. Not only is there a copious amount of food but it is also relatively cheap. Also, have you ever heard of the Waffle House index? If a storm approaches when every other restaurant closes, Waffle House will do their best to try to stay open — unless a dire situation arises then everyone should stay at home.  It’s time for IHOP to step up their game, as well as, Waffle House to expand to the North!

There you have it, my three day trip to Tampa! Did I have fun? Yes, I did! The food I ate there was so delicious that I came back with 30 extra pounds. So much for summer shedding!

 

Smoky BBQ Gathering

Sunny Summer is here!

What is the number one important task for all dad’s when summer approaches? Dust off the BBQ grill and purchase bulk meat at Costco! The best part of summer is gathering with your family over pounds of barbecued meat and roasted corn! Also, can’t forget the cool and refreshing beer to counteract the heat wave! However, for summer to approach the city I’ll still have to wait two more months for the barbecues parties to commence! After all, Fourth of July is the day when the streets in my neighborhood smell of Smoky Hickory BBQ sauce as everyone is preparing for family gatherings and extravagant fireworks. Until then, I’ll have to make do with a BBQ restaurant that fulfills my needs! Enter: Blue Smoke in New York City’s Flatiron District. 

Blue Smoke is one of many of Danny Meyer’s owned restaurants. The highlight of this BBQ joint is that it specializes in Southern style BBQ and offers an extensive beer & bourbon list. In the daytime it is a restaurant only but come nighttime the basement opens up and presents live jazz venue. The multiple times I’ve been there it’s only been during lunch; however, one day, I’ll go for a live jazz music session and report back! Taking a picture at this place is so hard because once the food comes out the smell is so tempting that it’s hard to resist eating immediately.

I’ve tried many items on their menu but sadly only took pictures of two individual dishes! It’s so tempting and hard to resist. My impatience continues to fail me whenever I come here, the aroma of the barbecue sauce is too enticing.

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Smoked Chicken Wings with Alabama White Sauce

Every restaurant has chicken wings as an appetizer choice. It is also the best bar food to accompany drinks and finger food for little children to messily play around with. However, what makes these wings stand out? The Alabama White Sauce that comes on the side as a dip. The ingredient is a secret but I was able to find out that the two most important ingredients are the mayonnaise and white miso sauce.

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The main go-to dish for me during a lunch hour is the Chopped Barbecue Sandwich. One day, I will have to try the Pit though because it comes with a biscuit and I love buttery biscuits! The Sandwich is great because it really fills you up with the amount of meat they give you. The meat choices are exactly the same as the Pit; therefore, even without ordering the Pit I almost get a taste of what the BBQ meat from the Pit order would taste like. You can eat them as a Sandwich or I tend to eat the meat and bread separately. Treating the bread almost like a biscuit. The BBQ chips are crunchy and thick. When you bite into them the crunch makes a hard noise. The sauce is tangy and great. Everything meat and BBQ related here is superb!

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Must Try:

  • Appetizers
    • Chicken Wings
    • Barbecue Chips
    •  Deviled Eggs
    • Cornbread Madelines
  • Sides
    • Grilled Broccolini
    • Sugar Cane Glazed Baby Carrots
    • Seasoned French Fries
    • Buttermilk Biscuits
  • Entrees
    • Chopped Barbecue Sandwiches (Pulled Pork and 7 Pepper Brisket)
    • From The Pit (Baby Back Ribs, 7 Pepper Brisket, and Pork Spare Ribs)

Can Pass:

  • Appetizers
    • Crispy Hog Cracklins. Although oily and greasy food are the best accompaniment with drinks, I personally would have just picked fries. This tasted like fried oil!
  • None for the sides!
  • None for the entrees! You can’t go wrong with the meat here!

Great to go with co-workers, friends, families, or date! If you miss summer BBQ sessions, check out this restaurant to cure your summer blues! If you do plan on visiting the restaurant with your date, do keep in mind that it can get messy so don’t wear white!

Tip: Make reservations because you may end up having to wait up to two hours on a weekend night!

Address: 116 E 27th St, New York, NY 10016

Website: https://www.bluesmoke.com/ 

 

Brunch Like Dan Humphrey

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It’s a weekend! No more 6 AM alarm, zombie walking to Starbucks, and then pounding your work computer as it refuses to open up your emails! What should you be doing on a weekend? Wake up past 10 AM and then head out for brunch — not breakfast but brunch. What I recently learned was that although brunch is fun with friends and families there are some weekends when alone time is the best. Dudley’s has you covered — whether you’re solo or with a group.

Inside Dudley’s there are tables that and a bar but along the side of the window’s there is a high top table for individuals to eat and sit while reading, writing, or just solely pondering about life.

Located in the heart of Lower East Side — feel free to release your inner Dan Humphrey-ism and people watch to find the love of your life that strikes your heart.

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A dynamic brunch menu for everyone. Not only does it cater to those who strictly eat healthy but they also have heavy carb and protein filled dishes as well as dishes for those who eat small.

The table is small and it easy for one to feel cramped. The tables are close to one another; therefore, it may be recommended to save your most private conversation and chat with your friends or families for elsewhere.

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The Norwegian Eggs is a popular dish for all eggs benedict lovers with a twist as it features smoked salmon instead of bacon. The ciabatta bread was crunchy but not hard to bite into. The poached egg was runny and combined with the hollandaise sauce made it a perfect combination as both the sauce and the yolk would melt into the bread. To consider eggs benedict healthy is rare; however, Dudley’s made this dish feel healthy — perhaps it was the presence of the salad. However, to me the salad fell a bit flat and I wished there were home fries instead. To up the quality of the salad they should combine and mix different greens and provide a slice of lemon on the side. The best way to spruce up a salad is to sprinkle lemon on top.

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A simple and not so extravagant restaurant but allows you to feel comfortable — especially when alone. Most restaurants can feel intimidating when you are alone. I’ve dealt with plenty side eye glances when eating and reading alone in a restaurant/cafe before but in Dudley’s it seems to be the occasional norm. Will I go back to Dudley’s? Perhaps, the food was not outstanding but the atmosphere was friendly that I am willing to give their dish another chance. It could be that the Norwegian Eggs was not the right dish for me and that I should have opted for something else — one never knows if you do not give it a second chance! If you’re looking for a brunch place with friends, go somewhere else but if you want a no frill and simple brunch place for yourself then Dudley’s is the way to go!

Address: 85 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

Website: http://www.dudleysnyc.com/http://www.dudleysnyc.com/

Tea Time With Friends

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After brunch what do girl’s do, you ask? Why, we go for dessert! No afternoon chat with friends is ever complete without a slice of cake on the side. Luckily, not only is NYC filled with brunch spots but there are equally if not more dessert shops wherever you are — be it UES, LES, Midtown, Soho, etc.

Lady M first arrived to NYC in 2004; however, I remember it boosted in popularity while I was in college, which was 2012-2013. After opening up a shop in Bryant Park it soon became the coveted spot to try the Mille Crepes Cake. The intricate and delicacy of how the cake is structured intrigues those who take a bite. The Mille Crepes is made from twenty layers of thin handmade crepes and cream filling. The Matcha Mille Crepes is the popular sought after dish; however, I decided to try something new — Strawberry Mille Crepe.

Interestingly, the texture is different from what you would expect. I expected the texture to be more bread-like, perhaps similar to a sponge cake, instead it was creamy. As I took a bite out of the cake I tasted and felt more cream than bread — it shows how shockingly thin the handmade crepes are! The pieces of strawberries within the twenty layers accentuated the taste of strawberries within the cream. It reminded me of the Korean Whipped Cream Strawberry Cake from Paris Baguette. Although, there is no prominent cream, the cake almost tastes as if it is made solely out of cream. If I didn’t have brunch an hour before visiting Lady M I would have finished two Mille Crepes Cakes.

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Most people do take out; however I chose to sit in and eat, partly, because the weather was too cold and I wanted to warm myself down. The drink’s are a bit more on the pricey side and are mediocre; however, the cakes and pastries are delicious! Don’t come with high expectations for drinks but do come hungry for the desserts — or take a whole cake home and share the delightful goodness with your whole family!

The Bryant Park location does have a line at times because it is located in a bustling area; therefore, take out may be an ideal option. Keep in mind that if you do chose to take out the cakes, make sure to refrigerate them within an hour or two after purchase to elongate and maintain the quality of the cakes.

Address: They have three locations (UES, Bryant Park, The Plaza Food Hall)

  • UES: 41 East 78th Streeet, NY, NY 10075
  • Bryant Park: 36 West 40th Street, NY, NY 10018
  • The Plaza Food Hall: 36 West 40th Street, NY, NY 10018

Website: https://www.ladym.com/

Cha Cha Your Way To Matcha

Growing up my favorite color was pink. Ask anyone around me and they’ll be able to tell you that my middle name was “Pink” because  was always dressed from head to toe in pink and loved everything that was pink! Although I’m not a child anymore the one thing that has never failed to change is my love for the color pink! Cha Cha Matcha, a cafe, loved by all celebrities, which has been the main reason behind the bustling business every single day presents a retro cafe that masters in matcha latter. This cafe already had me at the color pink but the fact that it also curates high-quality matcha latter further peaks my interest. After all, I am a matcha killer and love all matcha related drinks and pastries.

Since this place is highly sought after not by only locals but also tourists it can get very busy! It may be better to go on a sunny day because the chances of finding a seat are so slim that this may have to be a takeaway cafe for majority of those who come. The weekends are especially busy; therefore, do not expect to chill and relax inside the cafe with friends.

As the name of the cafe mentions it all — matcha is their specialty and offer drinks that vary in the level of matcha present. The pastries are matcha related, as well! Ordering, luckily, is a speedy process! Even though the line looks long, you’ll be ordering your drink in no time!

I ordered the Coconut Matcha Latte along with a Matcha Banana Bread — both were delightful! The Coconut Matcha Latte used Coconut Milk instead of Regular Milk and the Matcha taste was strong and present. The art at the top made me feel as if the drink was made with care and love — I’m being too mushy, aren’t I? The Matcha Banana Bread was an interesting color; however, the lighting makes it hard to detect the true color — so go look for yourself! The Matcha was very much present in the Bread; however, it did not takeaway the essence of the Banana bread! I really liked the bread and would go back for more! I wish they sold it in loaves since I would love to take some home! What would make the bread better is if they added tiny chocolate chip pieces but that’s just the chocolate lover in me speaking!

Not only is the decor of the restaurant nicely presented but the cup also is cute and witty! The play on words with “matcha” is clever and it makes me smile every single time I take a sip! Although, the line is overbearingly long, since the quality of the latte is great and fits my tastebuds I definitely will be back — not once but plenty of times! Perhaps, next time along with purchasing the bread again, I’ll also try their soft serve — only once the weather gets warmer!

Website: https://chachamatcha.com/

Address: 373 Broome St, New York, NY 10013

Eat With Two Hands

What better way to spend a cold snowy day in the city than eating a healthy and filling brunch with “two hands” while staring at cute Australian men in Two Hands Cafe at Little Italy!

After all the best weekend’s are those that we sleep in and indulge in brunch. Lately, I’ve been eating way too much sweets so to cut down on sweet’s and sugar I opted for a more healthy-style brunch — enter Two Hands! It’s a small cafe/restaurant (there should be a word that morphs these two together, seriously); therefore, expect wait time! The best part of this place is that they take your number and will text you when it is your turn, which allows you to wander around the nearby streets instead of having to wait in the tiny outside space for your turn to arrive. My friend and I checked out Cha Cha Matcha and ended up waiting for 43 minutes (we actually counted)! We arrived around 12:30PM and left around 1:45PM and there still was a wait — that shows how popular they are! People were trekking in the snow for this place!

The service was pleasant, the waiters and waitresses really do have an Australian accent and it is completely swoon worthy! They give you time to look through the menu and choose what you want to eat. Food is served quickly and it’s warm and fresh! Afterwards, they don’t bother you until you point out that you’re ready for the check! It really makes having a conversation with a friend easier when someone isn’t constantly checking up on you every five minutes! I get service is everything but no need to be a complete nuisance! This is why I love places, like Two Hands, who don’t repeatedly come to our table asking how we are doing.

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The brunch menu is not as extensive but it has a bit of something for everyone. For those who want something sweet can opt for the Croissant, Banana Bread, Granola, or Acai Bowl! For the rest of those who want a hearty yet healthy meal can choose the Zoe’s Market Platter, which is what I chose! They also offer sandwich’s, which are good, as well! As for those trendsetter’s, you can eat the Avo Toast and instagram that to raise up your likes and followers!

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The cafe is simple but nice with pictures of landscapes on the wall as well as flowers and twinkling lights hanging from the ceiling. The best part is the tables are wiped clean, which makes the dining experience much more pleasant! I got too excited when my friend pointed out that our food was arriving!

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Top to bottom: The Verona Sandwich and Zoe’s Market Plate

My friend ordered the Verona Sandwich, which is an upgrade from just the Avo Toast because you get Basil Pesto and double the sourdough bread — I’m trying to justify reasons on why one should venture away from the Avo Toast! As much as I love the Avocado toast trend — it really is just smashed avocado on bread! However, the real winner was the Zoe’s Market Plate which has two eggs of any style with avocado, watercress, roasted tomatoes, sweet potato, pickled beets, and quinoa — essentially everything I love since I am a huge avocado and sweet potato fan! I chose poached egg as my egg style and the runny yolk was the best dressing for my salad! Roasted tomato was amazing and the juice was oozing! The sweet potato was warm and soft! Lastly, I loved how the avocado was smashed rather than cut, it definitely refined the salad more and made eating the quinoa a bit more bearable as I could taste more avocado than quinoa after mixing the two! Next time, I would get this dish again but perhaps I’ll add an additional side protein, smoked salmon or prosciutto would make a nice choice!

Overall, I really enjoyed this healthy brunch experience! Not all brunch has to be solely french toasts and egg benedicts! Sometimes the best brunch can also be the healthiest brunch!

Address: 164 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

Website: Two Hands

 

Tumbling Around The Pisa

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Recollections of my trip to the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Immediately arriving in Florence I knew the first trip I had to make was to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. After all, it’s not common to see a tower that looks like it’s about to fall on you during your daily strolls from work to home or school to work, vice versa. I can attest to the fact that the tower does lean and looks highly unstable in person but lo and behold it is standing strong after leaning for more than 840 years!

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The highlight of the trip is being able to take unique photos with the leaning tower as the background! The pictures that people take are very diverse as some people kick the Pisa, or hold on to the Pisa, or some take pictures rolling around the grass in front of the Pisa. I instead jumped up straight in front of the Pisato emphasize the leaning of the tower. I also took one where I “attempted” to kick the Pisa! Sorry Pisa, hopefully I didn’t hurt you too much!

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The train ticket from Florence to Pisa was 16 euros (round trip). However, keep in mind that all you will be doing is taking pictures and if you want going up the tower. Some may feel highly unsatisfied with the trip but it is what you make of it!  Therefore, I definitely recommend you go up the Pisa tower, it’ll be a fun memory as you walk up the leaning tower around the circling staircase! I also highly recommend you save your money and walk to the tower from the train station. After all it is only a thirty minute walk and you can grab a gelato on the way while saving your money!

If you’re in Florence, spare half a day for a trip to visit the Pisa! You can go in the morning and in the afternoon view sights in Florence! The Pisa will not mess up your schedule because of how short the trip is and close it is to Florence compared to other places, which may require a whole day.