Until Next Time

Sorry I have been MIA for a few days but it was my last week in the city and I was busy trying to complete a whirlwind tour of all the things I hadn’t seen yet. Clearly, I didn’t see everything. However, I did stop by a few of the supposedly “best” spots in the city. The battle for the “best” coffee shop is always going to be up in the air, but plenty of coffee fanatics say that these days, Abraco in the LES is king. Being the coffee fiend that I am, I could not leave the city until I tried it. (Even though I was fairly certain that nothing would top my daily favorite, Greydogs). 

 

Abraco latte

Abraco latte

 

 

Abraco is not the place to sit, swoon, and sip coffee all day. In fact, there is hardly anywhere to sit. Abraco is not about the ambience, it’s about what’s inside your coffee cup. As I stopped to enjoy an almost unbeatable latte, I overheard coffee brewing terms I had never even heard before. They talked about coffee and coffee beans like sommeliers talk about wine. Everyone that walked in seemed to know the barista and he knew what each of the customers wanted. My latte answered any questions I might have had about why these people trek all the way to Abraco on a daily basis. 

I am not sure how one would summarize it in coffee speak, but in my language, my latte was simply delicious. Abraco also has a small, but intriguing menu of sweet/savory pastries (like the lemon olive oil loaf and the rose tea cookie) a few daily sandwiches and salads. The barista insisted that I sample the cured olive cookie (it sounds kind of gross, I know). I like olive bread, but olives, in a cookie? He proved me wrong. It was the perfect solution to sweet and salty cravings.  

(In case you can’t make it to Abraco, I also suggest Think Coffee, JOE, and Greydogs. All of them conveniently have more than one location.)

 

Sugar Sweet Sunshine cupcakes

Sugar Sweet Sunshine cupcakes

 

 

Also, you might recall that I sampled cupcakes from the infamous and highly overrated Magnolia Bakery about a month ago. Apparently, you are not a real New Yorker until you have tried the cupcakes from Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery in LES. I found this out one day when I was in the elevator and somehow, a bunch of girls got into a cupcake debate. Yes, I said it, a cupcake debate. After everyone started ranting about the “best” cupcake spot in the city, one girl (who was from the city) waited for silence and then said in a matter-of-fact tone, “You haven’t tried a cupcake until you have been to Sugar Sweet Sunshine. I promise.”

Since then, I have been wondering how she could be so sure that it was the “best”. Yesterday, my curiosity (and let’s be honest, my sweet tooth), led me to Sugar Sweet Sunshine. Kind of like Abraco, it is a fairly no-frills little bakery. The most unique flavor was the pistachio but Louise and I concluded that the chocolate chocolate cupcake was the best. (However, we didn’t try all of them because then we would be in a sugar coma so who really knows which one is the best). In case you were wondering, it was SO much better than anything from Magnolia. The girl in the elevator was entirely correct. 

Now, it is time to leave the city before sampling the “bests” gets the best of my waistline! -KTS

 

–> Check back in a few days for a list of my favorites and “bests” of restaurants and bars in the city! 

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Union Square: Hotbed for Health freaks!

Blame the poor air quality and general filth, the excessive smokers, the hot dog stands on practically every street corner, or the bustling nightlife that lasts past 4 o’clock every morning, but it is far too easy to get sucked into an unhealthy lifestyle in NYC. However, this morning as I stood in my downward dog at sunshine yoga at Union Square, I realized that the city is also a haven for health nuts. 

Union Square is an area of the city that seems especially dedicated to all forms of “healthy” living. I walk out my door and just a few steps away, there is a Lululemon store. Lululemon, in case you have been living on another planet for the past couple of years, is a Canadian yoga and fitness clothing store. According to pretty much every yogi and fitness freak out there, it’s quite simply the best. (Check out this article from New York Magazine earlier this week). Besides having the best products, they promote the healthy lifestyle by offering free yoga classes on Thursdays (AM and PM) and Saturdays at the Union Square location. (Check their website for classes by you). Call me shallow or whatever, but who wouldn’t want to do yoga when you are wearing such cute yoga gear?  

There is also a farmer’s market over three times per week, there’s a Whole Foods, Trader Joes, a Prana Power Yoga Studio, a Bikram (hot yoga) studio, another yoga studio (I can’t remember the name), The Pump Energy Foods, the juice bar at the Coffee Shop, Souen (a macrobiotic restaurant), the Equinox gym, and the list goes on and on from there. Whether you just want organic produce, or you are looking for gluten-free, vegan, non-dairy, wheat-free, soy-free, and sugar-free products, I guarantee you can find them somewhere in Union Square. 

I had my first macrobiotic meal on one of my first nights in the city when a friend of mine suggested Souen for dinner. What exactly is macrobiotic food? To be honest, I am still not clear. Basically, macrobiotic eating originated in the 1920’s by the Japanese and essentially geared towards maintaining good health through food. The Souen menu says that macrobiotic is a term “to signify living in harmony with nature, eating a simple, balanced diet, and living to an active old age”. 

The menu is so complex, they have a glossary that attempts to explain everything. I am not exactly sure what I was eating that night, but I felt pretty good afterwards! 

Anyways, Union Square (like many urban environments) has all you need to live at your absolute healthiest…It’s up to you to take advantage of them. In NYC, it seems that much more important to embrace these healthy options if you plan on living past the age of 40. 

As we sat repeating our last “om” chant this morning, the yoga instructor asked us to appreciate the nature around us and forget about the honking trucks and all of the noises that make up the soundtrack of the city. It was at that moment, when I was trying to tune out the sounds of the city waking up, that I realized why New Yorkers so desperately need things like yoga, Whole Foods, and macrobiotic restaurants. 

When you live in a city that doesn’t stop, you need something to keep your body sound and your mind sane. Whether it is through yoga, or eating completely organically, or maintaining a green lifestyle, or eating completely macrobiotic, or brunch (see The Business of Brunch), or all of the above, New Yorkers are able to find serenity in some way.

Namaste to that…

-KTS

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From Rice to Riches?

First, I noticed the Space Age-like decor inside and then I noticed the signs on the window that said things like “I got your Atkins right here” and “Lifetime addiction starts here”. After that, I couldn’t help but wonder what exactly this place was selling. Did they have miracle weight-loss food? Or, was it the millionth Pinkberry impersonator? I wasn’t the only person wondering because two other people did the exact same thing and followed me inside. 

 

What is this?

What is this?

 

 

It was neither miracle weight-loss food nor Pinkberry; it was rice pudding. That was a relief because although I do love frozen yogurt, I think the last thing New York (or LA) needs is another trendy frozen yogurt joint. Rice to Riches is an institution dedicated entirely to selling rice pudding. To be honest, I have never had rice pudding in my whole life and I wasn’t sure I was about to start. The texture of rice pudding looks far from appetizing and yet I was still intrigued. 

They have dozens of flavors, from basic vanilla rice pudding to creative flavors like “Sex Drugs and Rocky Road”, “Take Me to Tiramisu” and “Fluent in French Toast”. Well, if nothing else, they sure put some time into the naming of this pudding. They also have toppings like toasted pound cake, caramel vanilla sauce, and oatmeal coconut crumble. At that point, I felt I had to at least sample it. 

The cinnamon flavored rice pudding was not too bad. In fact, it was pretty delicious once you get past the fact that you are eating pudding with sushi sticky rice. The salesperson behind the counter would not release the nutrition info or calorie content to me. She just said, “We don’t know, we just know it’s lower in calories than ice cream.” Well, great, I am glad it has less than hundreds of calories. Someone must really, really like this stuff because you can get an 80 ounce order for $40. 

As I sat there thinking this could be the next “big thing” in food, the saleswoman told me that Rice to Riches has been around for 6 years. Well, it doesn’t look like I am going from rags, or Rice to Riches anytime soon but I commend them for a creative business concept. If rice pudding is your thing, head over to their store on Spring Street. They also ship overnight to anywhere in the country. (Do people in the middle of Alabama get rice pudding cravings so badly they need it shipped overnight? I wonder…)

 

Is rice pudding the new frozen yogurt? I am not so sure...

Is rice pudding the new frozen yogurt? I am not so sure...

 

 

Limit: 500 rice puddings per customer. No joke. 

-KTS

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The Business of Brunch

 

Brunch at The Boathouse in Central Park

Brunch at The Boathouse in Central Park

 

The view from our brunch @ The Boathouse

The view from our brunch @ The Boathouse

The brunch business in New York is a very serious one. Sundays here are for brunch; they are not for church, the beach, or bbq’s.  There are all-day brunch menus, many restaurants even serve brunch on Saturday AND Sunday, and New Yorkers are willing to wait almost two hours to sit down for brunch at places like The Boathouse in Central Park or Essex Restaurant. 

Sunday brunch helps to relieve the anxiety that the weekend is practically over and Monday looms closer. Sunday brunch is a time to gather with close friends and take a moment to retreat from the nonstop  city life. There is an unspoken sort of zen that results from a perfect brunch. (Or maybe that is just the Bloody Mary’s speaking). If yoga didn’t happen for your on Sunday morning, brunch can provide a similar sort of feel-goodness that also comes from yoga or sleeping in without the disturbance of an alarm clock. (Not to say eating should replace exercise, but you get the idea). For many party-hard New Yorkers, Sunday brunch offers the perfect solution to a potentially nasty hangover. 

I appreciate New York’s devotion to such a great meal. On the way home the other day, I even noticed that the Village Pourhouse on 3rd Ave offers the “Uptown” and the “Downtown”  brunch Saturday and Sunday. These both include BBQ, beer, and other brunch treats.

This Sunday, I hope you enjoy your brunch as I will. Cheers to brunch. 

-KTS

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Get Your Skinny Buns at Babycakes

 

Babycakes cookie sandwiches

Babycakes cookie sandwiches

These desserts are vegan, gluten-free, wheat free, refined-sugar free, soy free, kosher, and egg free. By my usual calculations, that equation adds up to one disgusting dessert. Babycakes NYC, however, is by no means your average bakery. 

 

“In a city dominated by cupcakes overflowing with sugar, flour and butter cream, it’s easy for those with persnickety diets to feel left out. BabyCakes offers all-natural, organic and delicious alternatives free from the common allergens: wheat, gluten, dairy, casein and eggs. Rest assured, all sweeteners have been chosen responsibly and used sparingly. White sugar will never be found in our bakery, nor will we ever use toxic chemical sweeteners. Instead, most products are sweetened with agave nectar—a natural syrup from a cactus which is low on the glycemia index and often a safe alternative to most non-insulin dependant diabetics. Occasionally, unprocessed and unrefined sugar is used in certain goods, although sparingly.”

Erin McKenna
Founder, 
BabyCakes NYC™


In a blind taste test, I couldn’t pick out a full sugar, gluten-full, soy-filled cookie from a Babycakes chocolate chip cookie. They were that good.  Maybe that’s how NYC remains the skinniest county in all of New York? Hmm.. one could hope. Unfortunately, these tasty treats still have calories but they are a more healthful alternative to calorie-packed Crumbs (or whatever your sweet tooth vice happens to be). 

I tried the chocolate chip cookie sandwich and it was worth every calorie and penny. They freeze the vegan treats with frosting in the middle and the result is mouthwatering. The girl behind the counter also recommended the apple crumb cake, the brownie bites, and the Skinny Buns. 

I don’t know if you have ever tried those vegan cookies at Whole Foods, but those pale in comparison to EVERYTHING at Babycakes. Those cookies might as well be cardboard cookies.

Can’t make it to NYC anytime soon? Don’t worry, the healthy hot spot is set to open their first West Coast store around November in downtown LA. 

Follow them on their blog at http://www.babycakesnyc.com/menu.html!

*Babycakes NYC, 248 Broome Street, NY, NY. (212) 677-5047.

-KTS

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Ice Cold

If you put New Yorkers on a deserted island and told them they could only have five things to survive, it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to hear them request iced coffee. Even on a day like today, (it’s raining), people all over the city flock to the nearest Starbucks to get their next java jolt of iced coffee.

 

frappuccino? not here.

frappuccino? not here.

 

At first I thought maybe iced coffee is just the “it” thing in Soho, where the population is about 80 percent models and fashion people. They just live on iced coffee and cigarettes. Besides, if you frequented Starbucks more than four times per day, iced coffee would be the only thing you could afford, financially and calorically. 

I was wrong. Iced coffee is the drink of choice everywhere in this city, not just in skinny Soho. Maybe I live under a rock in Los Angeles because I have never witnessed so much iced coffee drinking in my life. When I walk into a Starbucks these days, the words “iced coffee” seem to come out before I have even considered another option. For all I know,  the baristas here might not even be able to make a frappuccino. 

Here are my thoughts on iced coffee and why New Yorkers drink it. 

1) When coffee is on ice, you can drink it that much faster. You can drink it faster and get the caffeine rush that much quicker. New Yorkers do everything faster anyways. 

2) Because it is probably the cheapest thing you can order in any coffee shop (besides hot coffee). In a city where everything costs more than it should, why not cut back on your expenditures on something? 

3) The barista, and everyone around you, might try to murder you if you attempt to order another calorie cutting concoction. “Hi. I would like a grande, nonfat capp. with soy milk and a little less foam. Could you also add sugar-free vanilla syrup and a half Splenda packet. Oh, and can you put it in a venti cup, please?” Ya right. It is so much easier to order a grande, unsweetened iced coffee. 

4) When it is 90 degrees and uncomfortably humid, iced coffee is the only thing that makes sense. 

5) It is just the thing to do. Everyone orders it because everyone else orders it.

-KTS

p.s. Did I mention that I am now addicted to iced coffee?

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Perfect NY Night

The Times did it. NY Magazine did it. It seems I should do it too. They described their favorite, perfect night in Manhattan. Clearly, that is a tremendously difficult task when you in a city where the list of events, openings, etc. is endless. Here goes…

photo

 

Location: The lawn at Bryant Park.

Activity: HBO’s summer movie night in the park. People flock from around the city as early at 5pm to get a spot with enough room for their picnic blanket, Dean & Deluca feast, and plenty of wine. It is worth it though, I promise. It is a tradition for most of these people and once you go, you will understand why. It’s magical. 

Temperature: I would prefer a nice 80 degrees but it is usually more like 65 or 70. 

Soundtrack: These days, I would have to say anything by Michael Jackson. Corny? Maybe but I am ok with that. 

Beverages: A lovely blend by Charles Shaw (in this city, it’s $3, not $2 of course) or an Arnold Palmer. 

Company: My friends and over 500 other people sitting/laying body to body. 

Reading material: I always bring a book but usually just end up being completely amused by the people around me. This Monday, I am skipping the book entirely. 

Clothing: Something comfortable enough to sit in for several hours. Probably my seersucker dress. 

What is yours?


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