Sunday, July 26, 2015

Wizarding World Finds

This weekend I pretty much went to heaven. I rode the Hogwarts Express and spent the day in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley! If you followed the Harry Potter stories, it's like a lifestyle. Getting the opportunity to experience both was absolutely life changing. I took a tour through Gringotts Bank, rode a Hungarian Horntale, and  took a tour through Hogwarts. I shopped in Ollivanders Wand Shop, Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, and even Borgin and Burkes. While I was there I obviously sampled some of the staples of Harry Potter, including the famous Butter Beer. I even made my way to Honeydukes and got some sweets! Everything was even more than I could imagine, I wish that I had access to these things everyday. Here are some of the things I was able to try:

1. Butter Beer (Frozen)
A combination of cream soda and butterscotch doesn't do justice to explain the deliciousness that is Butter Beer. Since it was so hot, I opted for the frozen which is basically a slushie. You would assume that it would be way to sweet, but it's actually refreshing and perfectly flavored. They even top it off with a butterscotch malt, I'm not sure if that's the right way to explain it. Literally to die for, I wish I had gotten one to go in all honesty haha. 

2. Cauldron Cake from Honeydukes 
A Cauldron Cake is a variant of a chocolate cupcake that every wizard and witch would love! It's Devils Food cake with a chocolate mousse filling. The handle is made of dark chocolate, there is also a garnishment of white chocolate in the middle. This was super sweet, too sweet to even indulge fully having to throw some away at the end. So so so delicious though. Definitely something I may try to make at home for Halloween this year (stay tuned). 

3. Butter Beer Ice Cream 
Being a slave for ice cream, how could I pass up the chance to have Butter Beer Ice Cream from Florean Fortescues'.  The shop has a variety of flavors of soft serve and regular ice cream, but I couldn't pass up the butter beer because you can't get it any where else! It's a vanilla ice cream soft serve with a ribbon of butter beer. It's much sweeter than the actually drink (which is expected) but still delicious and satisfying on a hot summer day. Definitely a must try if you're in Diagon Alley. You can't get it in Hogsmeade. 

It was honestly such an amazing experience. Riding the train and visiting these places that you only see in movies and dream about going. Getting the opportunity to visit them is so invigorating. Universal really did a wonderful job of reenacting Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley based off the books and movies. It was an honor being able to experience it. I went into every store and did everything there was to do and I can't wait for the chance to do it again. I really urge everyone who gets the opportunity to do it and make sure you get the tickets for both parks to get the full experience! Butter beer was my absolute favorite, that alone is worth it haha! 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Going Mex for Meg's 24th

This past weekend was spent celebrating one of my best friend, Megan's, 24th birthday. I know she really likes Mexican food, so I made reservations for a really great Mexican restaurant I heard about in Battery Park. El Vez is definitely a must try. Located on Vessey Street it's a quick ride from Brooklyn and Staten Island. There are multiple parking garages near by and a ride with uber from Carroll Gardens was super inexpensive. The vibe of the restaurant right off the bat is great. It's casual enough to freely enjoy yourself but still has an edgy vibe. You can go there for a night out with friends or even for a nice dinner with your family (multiple kids were there while I was on a Saturday night). It's a spacious restaurant with cool decor and a full bar (always, always a plus). We started off with Guacamole, Salsa and Chips (because, duh!) and the Nacho Mama appetizer. Probably the best nachos I've ever had. 
For an entree, we all got different variations of the same thing. I got the crab tostadas and sweet plantains drizzled with cheese (Insert heart eye emoji here) with a glass of the sparkling white sangria. 
There was also orders or crab tacos, chicken tacos, chicken enchiladas, and oxtail enchiladas. 
Everything was really great and delicious and it wasn't as expensive as I thought it would be for the area. It's definitely somewhere I would go again. 

After dinner we decided to go to a rooftop bar near by that we've been hearing a lot about, Loopy Doopy at the Conrad Hotel. They're known for their Prosecco Ice Pop Cocktails. Little did we know, there would be a crazy wait. For future reference, put your name on the list at the hotel first and then go and eat. There aren't a lot of bars near by to hang out while you wait, so that's your best bet. The rooftop was small, they only let a certain amount of people up at a time. Seating is limited and there isn't a DJ playing music or anything of that nature. Definitely more of a relaxing place, much better for a brunch or sunny afternoon than a night out. The drinks were good though, a little expensive but that's expected. It's somewhere I would go back to with a different atmosphere in mind. The view is also beautiful and much better appreciated during the day. 

All in all, the night was a success. We ended up at Zombie Hut in Carroll Gardens playing Apples To Apples haha. Currently writing this post 30,000 feet in air on my way to Florida so stay tuned for some West Palm and Orlando eats while I'm on vacation. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Pump Up the Protein

Monday-Thursday (Friday is I'm really feeling it, usually not though haha) I try to maintain a healthy diet and work out routine. I stay low carb and low sugar and do a workout regimen that includes weight training, cardio, and T25 (a cardio infused strength training program). I try to go to the gym when I wake up eating a snack like a banana before hand and then having a hearty breakfast after. That breakfast usually consist of eggs, but lately I'm just not feeling them. I really love pancakes but they're not the lowest in carbs or the healthiest. I started researched recipes and I saw that a lot of people have been usually Greek yogurt. I decided to try my hand at them. The recipe I found called for: 
• 3/4 cup of Greek Yogurt 
• 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
• 2 egg whites 
• 1 tsp of baking soda 

I changed it up a little. I used:
• 3/4 cup Fage 0% Total Plain Greek Yogurt
•1/2 cup whole wheat flour
• 1/2 scoop Gold Whey Standard Cookies & Cream Protein
• 1 whole egg
• 1 tsp of baking soda 

You could probably substitute more protein for less flour but I have 5 ulcers and other stomach issues so I can't break down more than a 1/2 scoop at a time. They were actually really delicious but just a little bland ( I missed that the original recipe called for flavored yogurt, whoops). I topped them with Nutella to give them some extra flavor (I'm Italian what can I say?). Next time I'm going to try adding a little vanilla extract and a few dark chocolate chips to lower the fat and calorie intake, and add some flavor. They are definitely something I can see myself making when eggs are just not cutting it for me anymore. They were fluffy like pancakes but more nutritious and a great post-workout breakfast. I had some bacon with it too. If you're looking to spice up your breakfast meals, I think most people would enjoy this recipe. It's simple, quick and let's you indulge a little. Finished product below :)  

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Jumping for Joya

One of my favorite places in the Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill area is Joya. Joya serves Thai/Asian food with vegetarian options. Not only is it cheap and affordable, but the food is great too! They offer multiple options from spicy curries to fried calamari to bowls of noodles, all delicious. It's literally the only place I will go for Thai food, coming in from Staten Island regularly just for a bite. Everyone that I have brought there to try has never had anything bad to say about it. The portions are hefty but you always leave there feeling satisfied but not like you've over indulged. For appetizer, I always enjoy the Fried Tiger Shrimp Rolls with the plum sauce. For the summer they also have a really great Salmon Avocado Summer Roll with a spicy Thai peanut sauce. The fried calamari appetizer is really delicious too, for something that isn't known for being Thai it's definitely a pleasant surprise. For an entree, I always get the Shrimp Woon Sen, glass noodles with shrimp, mixed vegetable, and eggs. It's my favorite and no matter how many times I say I'll try something new, I can never part from what I know will be a delicious explosion in my mouth. The tiger shrimp rolls and Woon Sen are pictured below. 
During the week the wait for Joya is not so bad, but on the weekends unless you go for an early dinner you could be there for a while. Luckily there is a DJ always playing and a full bar with drinks flowing. The bar prices are also affordable and they have some Asian style beers that are pretty good. If you're in the area, it's definitely a spot to stop and grab a bite. They deliver if you live close by and do take out orders, as well. 

Since Joya never really leaves you overly stuffed, there is always room for dessert. One of my absolute favorite ice cream places in Park Slope is just a short ride from Joya. So on my last visit for Thai food, I  drove over to Union St and Third Ave and indulged in some Ample Hills Creamery Ice Cream. 

Ample Hills Creamery prides itself on its use of all natural ingredients. The milk and eggs that come from hormone free, grass-fed chickens and cows are churned and made right on premises. They try to avoid extracts and use fresh ingredients. Although it is probably a longer process, it's definitely worth it. The ice cream is to die for. There are combinations of unique and original flavors, all with a twist. My favorites are the Butter Pecan Brittle and the Chocolate Milk & Cookies, seen below. 
I've had others like the Snap, Mallow, Pop, Salted Crack Caramel, and Raw Deal. None of them have ever disappointed me or anyone that I've peer pressured into breaking their diets for this delicious treat (Sorry Megan & Chris hahaha) 
I think they agree it was worth it & approve the deliciousness :) 

There are two shops in Brooklyn, one in Park Slope and one in Gowanus. During the summer you can also visit their Kiosk on Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. There is even the option to order 6 packs of some of their flavors online. Ice cream cakes are available for preorder (I've never had any but I'm sure they're spectacular & I want one for my next birthday so you know who this pertains to you bahaha). Speaking of birthdays by the way, they throw birthday parties for kids (if they did adults I would be in there like swimwear but I'm too embarrassed to ask haha)! The best part really is that they are always changing their flavors while keeping most of them as regulars. You're always be surprised when you go in and there is always something new to try. It's really a must for people who like and love ice cream. Visit their website for more information  

Monday, July 6, 2015

Summer Sight Seeing

Happy Fourth of July Weekend, Everyone! With mostly everyone away from the city this weekend, I figured it would be the perfect time to do some sightseeing I've been meaning to get done. Central Park is huge, which I'm sure everyone knows. It's 843 acres of land is home to some of the most breathtaking views in all of the city. I've lived in New York my entire life and have maybe dabbled in the park once or twice (despicable, I know). Since my younger cousin is spending some time with us from Florida, I decided to drag her and my little sister with me to the park on this beautiful Sunday. We started on 103rd St and worked our way down to 79th (they pretty much wanted to kill me haha). With the help of my wonderful sense of directions, and of course Google Maps we were able to navigate to the Ravine and then down to Belvedere Castle. Absolutely Gorgeous, all of it. Here are some photos that I snapped today.


After having them take a ferry, two trains, and walking about 4 miles, I thought they deserved a delicious meal. We worked our way over to Columbus Ave and decided to stop at Shake Shack since the two of them have never had it. I'm practically obsessed with it. Everyone that I expose to it immediately falls in love. Proof from my last visit with a couple newbies to the left haha.

Shake Shack isn't just delicious because I love a good burger, but because the meat is 100% all natural Angus beef with no antibiotics or hormones, makes it even more delicious. Who can resist the the on the site made custard and 100% Yukon potato crinkle cut fries too?! It's like a subliminal message to your tongue once you try it the first time. When I go, I usually get a Shack Burger with all the fixings and some Apple Wood Smoked Bacon. This time I decided to change it up and try the Shackmeister... OMG. It's an original burger, shack sauce, & crispy fried shallots. It's my new favorite and I'll probably be adding bacon and ordering it every single time I go. There are locations all over Manhattan, and two locations in Brooklyn (Downtown & Dumbo). If you haven't gotten a chance to go, I suggest you give it a try as soon as possible.

No meal is complete without dessert. I have a terrible sweet tooth, and luckily I have passed that on to my younger cousin along with my love of a nice cup of tea. We stumbled upon Alice's Tea Cup accidentally, and instantly had to go in and give it a try. I am in love with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, another obsession my little mini-me's have also inherited. It was simply delightful. Considering we had lunch already, we opted for some sweets, tea, and chocolate milk (my sister doesn't fancy tea, she's too young still haha). We were not disappointed. I got the White Champagne Raspberry tea and the Queen of Hearts Lemon Tart. The tea was a blend of full leaf white tea that is flavored with natural champagne grapes, raspberries, and hints of safflowers. My cousin got the Rose Sencha tea, and also a lemon tart (she is literally me, it's scary). The Rose Sencha is a Japanese sencha green tea with rosehips and rose petals. My sister got a chocolate milk and the White Rabbit Dark Chocolate Mousse, heavenly chocolate coma. The atmosphere in there is simply adorable. It's a really cute place and incredible if you like tea. I would definitely go back for a full lunch to get the whole experience. They have specials where you can get tea, sandwiches and sweets. There are three different locations with three different menus. We ended up in the original location with the biggest store on 73rd and Columbus Ave. I even got a free tin of mints out of the trip thanks to the extremely nice employee.

After all I would say we had a lovely day.  Walked 6 miles, 4 different train rides, 2 ferry rides, and a belly full of burgers, tea and delicious desserts, with the best company. Who wouldn't love a day like that? I think they were pretty happy with how it turned out, I know I was! Couldn't love a couple teenagers more than I love these two. Thanks for being my guinea pigs today :)