NYC: Food!!!

New York City; one of the greatest cities in the world.  And one that I had the pleasure of visiting this year.  I have only been to New York once, and it was for less than 24 hours.  I used to work at Macy’s and had the chance to be a balloon handler in the Thanksgiving Day Parade.  It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience.  However, that was quite a long time ago, and I remembered almost nothing.

My list of things I wished to do became longer and longer.  And, that list became more and more centered on New York points of interest.  Specifically, I wanted to experience many of the restaurants that can only be found there.  My trip was a full week, and a lot was accomplished.  Here is a recap of some of the great food that I had the pleasure to eat.

Papaya King

*Nothing says NYC like a hot dog.  I will say, I’m not a fan of eating off carts.  There is something about it that has always made me a little sketched out.  So, after a little research, I found a place I could get a good NYC hot dog.  And I certainly found it.  Let’s just say that it was one of the most delicious hot dogs I’ve ever had.

Papaya King

2 Hot Dogs and fries @ Papaya King


*Prior to this trip, I started to be interested again in musical theater.  After going down an internet rabbit hole (we’ve all been down one), I stumbled on this cookie place.  Every year, they hold a fundraiser called Broadway Bakes.  I also started seeing it on some must-eat lists.  After looking at pictures of their cookies, I HAD to go.  They looked ridiculously delicious.  I was not disappointed.  I got the Cookies & Cream and the Funfetti cookies.  They were the perfect pre-theater snack.  Schmakery’s is something to behold.  They have something for everyone, and especially if you love cookies.


The Spread!

IMG_2991 2

Funfetti & Cookies and Cream

Momofuku Noodle Bar & Milk Bar

Anyone who has seen The Mind of a Chef is familiar with Chef David Chang.  And this is exactly how I was made aware of him.  I am fascinated by his culinary point of view, and he is proof that even the simplest things can be memorable.  Momofuku Noodle Bar was on my list of non-negotiable things to do in NYC.  Shockingly, I have never had ramen.  Like real ramen.  I’ve had variations of it, but never in an actual ramen place.  There is no better way to try ramen than at Momofuku.  And it was so good, and I don’t think I could ever judge ramen fairly again.

Now, under the same umbrella, but altogether different, is Milk Bar.  No, its not some pop-up Clockwork Orange place.  Its one of the most creative and well executed dessert establishments…ever.  It is the brainchild of Chef Christina Tosi.  Coincidentally, as I was becoming aware of Milk Bar, Chef Tosi started as a judge on MasterChef.  One of their specialities is the Cerealmilk products.  Specifically, the soft serve is what I tried.  I’ve never had anything like it, and I double I will ever find anything else like that.  In addition to the Birthday Cake truffles, their famous Crack Pie and the Cornflake Marshmallow Chocolate Chip cookies, I will never look at dessert the same way.  I’m forced to patiently wait for their Los Angeles location to open…soon hopefully.

Le Bernardin

I don’t think any words could possibly convey what it is like to eat at Le Bernardin.  But, I will try.  But first, a slight detour into the background behind why I picked it.  When I was going through chemotherapy, I couldn’t eat seafood that wasn’t thoroughly cooked.  One of the chefs I love is Eric Ripert.  He has a gentle soul, and an appreciation for life that is unmatched.  I admire him, as a chef and as a person.  Since a fair amount of seafood in a fine dining restaurant is usually lightly cooked, it is something that cannot be risked when you have zero immune system.  I made a promise to myself that when I beat the cancer, I would go to eat at Le Bernardin.  And eat at Le Bernardin is what I did.  It was the best meal of my life.  I had the Le Bernardin Tasting Menu and it was incredible.  Each course was delicious.  I will let the picture speak for itself.


All in all, it was an incredible trip filled with tasty food and fantastic sights.  And one of the best things about my trip was that everything was on my terms.  I went solo, and I can’t imagine seeing New York City for the first time not solo.  I packed so much in in a week, and I don’t regret going by myself.  I’ve done a lot of things by myself, but never a trip like this one.  Most definitely something I will remember for the rest of my life.


Travel: Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture


Tomatoes to greet you on the entrance path!

On my recent trip to New York, I knew that one of the things I had to make happen was a visit to Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.  About 30 miles north of Manhattan, in a town called Pocantico Hills, is Stone Barns Center.  It was started by the Rockefeller family more than 20 years ago.  And it has turned into a hub of experimentation and research for something that affects us all; farming and food.  In conjunction with chef Dan Barber and Blue Hill at Stone Barns (11th best restaurant in the world), they have created something very special.  After a day at this amazing place, I have grown to appreciate even more what they do there.

One of the major things that I have learned about SBC is that they genuinely believe in what they do there.  Of course, they have gained more notoriety from their collaboration with Dan Barber and Blue Hill, but the farmers have a bigger purpose than trying to get to the top of the list.  Its very simple.  They want to grow and raise food that tastes good and is sustainable.  One of their major techniques is a 7 year rotation with the crops in the field.  For example, if this year, tomatoes are grown there, tomatoes will not be in that soil for another 7 years.  They understand each crop completely.  They utilize each crop’s assets and defects to grow better food and to make it sustainable.  For example, they know that tomatoes suck nitrogen out of the soil, so they may plant a crop next time in that space that puts nitrogen back into the soil.  Or they may plant a micro green in the same bed at the same time that counteracts the nitrogen depletion.  Its an amazing technique and to see it in action makes you feel like you are witness to a food revolution. Stone Barns Center also utilizes a greenhouse.  They do this not in an effort to grow out of season, but rather to extend the growing seasons.  In the greenhouse, they have a 10 year rotation cycle instead of 7.


Another thing they do is create new types of fruits and vegetables.  And they do this without genetic modification.  And they do this for a better tasting crop.  They use traditional methods of cross breeding.  When I was there, I saw the pepper crops.  They had the usual jalapeños, bell peppers, etc.  But they also had a new pepper.  It was called a Habanata (not sure it that is the correct spelling).  It is a habanero that has had the spiciness bred out.  Amazing.

When you go there for a day, you also have the option to participate/observe in activities around the farm.  I chose the watermelon testing, the foraging walk and the pig feeding.  By far, the foraging walk was my favorite.  To learn about how the restaurant uses foraged ingredients made me have a new respect for the chefs at Blue Hill at Stone Barns.  It is one thing to say, “I want these ingredients to make this dish”.  It is quite another thing to say “I’ve been presented these ingredients, what will I come up with?”.  And that is what they do at Blue Hill at Stone Barns.  They are presented with or have found ingredients and they come up with something grand.  They can be presented wit a giant crop of sunflowers and have come up with a way to use EVERY SINGLE PART OF THE SUNFLOWER.  Nothing goes to waste.  This is an important part of what happens at SBC.

And that leads to my main takeaway of my visit.  They are trying to really create a better world through food.  They want to create something sustainable and delicious and in such a way that keeps you interested.  When I first read The Third Plate, I was convinced that Dan Barber was on to something.  And to see it in action is truly something awe-inspiring.  With so many horrible things going on in this world today, it is important to do things that make you happy and give you hope.  Stone Barns Center gives me hope and it made me so happy to see something like that first hand.  If you ever get a chance to go, I urge you to go.

DIY Travel Palette

Travelling.  Its either something you do often, or not enough.  As a self-proclaimed home body, I do not travel often.  And if I do, its usually somewhere close like Las Vegas or San Francisco.  Basically, somewhere that I can drive to within a few hours.  I’m not great at being away from home, and my cat, McClane.  I worry about whether everything is ok back home, and it can totally derail my vacation.  And surprisingly, this fact does not bother me.  I take comfort in the fact that I like to have a home base.

However, this year, something bigger is on the horizon.  I’m taking an actual vacation, for more than 4 days.  I also have to fly there.  I have not gone someplace other then the state of Nevada or California in at least 5 years.  This September, though, I shall be going to New York City.  I have only been once in my entire life, and it was to be a balloon handler in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  I was in the city for less than 24 hours, and it was so long ago that I barely remember much of that day.  But alas, I will be there for 5 days and 2 half days.  Since I don’t want to be hassled too much, I will only be taking 1 carry on and a backpack.  Herein lies the challenge.  What am I supposed to do about makeup?!

Normally, while travelling, I’m driving, so there are no restrictions on what I can take.  I can take as much makeup as I want.  But, with this trip, due to TSA regulations and  space limitations, I needed to seriously consolidate the makeup I am bringing.  All toiletries need to fit in my makeup bag and of course, the 1 quart bag for the liquids.  I thought about it.  Well, I could try and buy the trial sizes of everything I have, but at $15-$20 per item, that could be pricier than I would like.

Then, my sister gave me an idea.  She was going to Italy and she bought the Charlotte Tilbury Instant Look in a Palette.  It comes with eye shadows, blush, highlighter and contour.  I realized quickly that the problem with these kinds of palettes (although beautiful) is that the colors are predetermined.  And in my case, its either the eye shadows are not my colors (too light) or the contour/highlight shades are not my colors (too dark).  And so, the quest began; the quest to build the ultimate travel face palette.  And let’s just say that what I came up with is the perfect travel set for ME.  Now, if you were to buy all of this new, it would come up to around $60.  I already had a couple of the items, so it did not break the bank.

Here is what did:

Step 1:  Get some sort of empty magnetic palette.  I used the Morphe one, as it was the best priced one I could find.  I used the 6 in x 4 in size, as I needed space for 6 eye shadows, Blush, Highlighter and Contour/Bronzer.

Step 2:  Get a plan of what colors you want to put in your palette.  For me, I wear black eye shadow often, so I knew that I would want a basic color scheme of White/Gray/Black, along with a few colors to mix it up.  For blush, you want one that matches all potential makeup looks.  The same goes for your highlighter.  Contour is the easiest as your shade is your shade.

Step 3:  Locate all of the chosen colors in pan only.  Ah, pan only.  This is actually a concept that is falling by the wayside.  Some companies sell the component that allows you to pop the pan out, but its easier, in my opinion, to find them in pan only to begin with.  For eye shadow, Morphe, Makeup Geek, Colourpop & Anastasia Beverly Hills are my go-tos for this.  For Blush and Highlight, I chose Makeup Geek’s Heart Throb and Shimma Shimma (an eye shadow shade that works fantastic as a highlighter).  And for contour, I used the Kat Von D in shade Sombre.  Kat Von D Beauty came out with the refillable version in the incomparable Shade + Light Contour Palette.

Step 4:  Fill your empty palette, throw it in your bag and enjoy your vacation!

Now, of course, with an empty magnetic palette, the possibilities are endless.  Especially since you can always buy magnetic strips at the craft store to make anything stick in the palette.  With makeup, it is especially important to remember that if something doesn’t work for you, there will surely be a way to find an alternative.  It may take more effort than just buying something already made, but at least you get EXACTLY what you want.  I included a picture of what my palette looks like below, along with the links to the products.  =)



Eye Shadows:  Top – Porcelain/Pink Silk, Middle – Velveteen/Magic, Bottom – Coal/Emerald


Kat Von D Shad + Light Contour Palette – $49

Kat Von D Shade + Light Contour Refill – Shade Sombre – $16

Makeup Geek Blush Pan – Heart Throb – $10

Makeup Geek Eye Shadow – Shimma Shimma – $6

Anastasia Beverly Hills Eyeshadow Singles – Emerald – $12

Morphe Eyeshadow Singles – Magic, Pink Silk, Coal, Velveteen, Porcelain – $2.29 each





Pink Silk

Morphe Empthy Magnetic Palette (6″ by 4″) – $6.99


Beautiful California

For as long as I can remember, I’ve preferred the bright lights of the big city.  However, with my recent illness, I’ve learned to appreciate more.  In May, I had the pleasure of taking a brief trip up the coast of California.  We drove from Los Angeles to Monterey.  And of course, we stopped along the way to take in the sites.  Perhaps one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen is the Pacific Coastline.  Also, since getting sick, I was not able to get out and shoot like I used to.  This trip was a perfect opportunity to pull out my trusty Nikon and document.  Here are some of the sites from Ventura, Morro Bay, and Big Sur.

It is an absolutely breathtaking trip to take if you ever get the chance.


Morro Bay…

Big Sur…

Los Angeles Hike:  Trail to Jim Morrison’s cave

Los Angeles is famous for lots of things. And one of those things is the Laurel Canyon music scene of the 60s and 70s.  One of the most legendary products of this was Jim Morrison. He was known for his talent and his eccentricities. One of his escapes was a cave high above Malibu. For a long time, it was kind of a secret. But a secret no longer, with the prominence of social media.  If you want to know where it is, you need to figure it out. That’s half the fun 😉

As a music fan, it was an incredible experience. Although this cave is far from Laurel Canyon, you can still feel that Laurel Canyon spirit. I highly recommend doing this.  It’s an easy hike to a cool end point.  


Farmer’s Markets:  Support Local Farms

Recently, the Farm-to-Table movement has gained some traction.  Restaurants like Pedalers Fork and food trucks like Guerilla Tacos have been making the farm-to-table concept more accessible across Los Angeles.  However, you don’t need to live in a big city to experience farm-to-table eating. All you need is a farmer’s market. 

I’m extremely grateful that I have one of the best farmer’s markets within 20 miles. Every Sunday, I make my way to The Hollywood Farmer’s Market. With my market basket and 20 bucks in hand, I go from tent to tent, looking for the best produce Southern California has to offer.  

Today, I came upon some great looking strawberries. Since we are almost out of strawberry season, I gladly scooped them up. Usually, I buy 3 baskets, and freeze 2 baskets and eat the other basket fresh.  I asked the farmer if we were approaching the end of season.  Luckily, they have one more harvest.  I mentioned that it’s the saddest time of year; when strawberries are out of season. He mentioned that it is for them too because that’s where the money is; selling berries. 

Now I was doubly sad. And it reminded me of a point in The a Third Plate by Dan Barber. To truly embrace the farm-to-table concept, we cannot dictate as the consumer what the farmers have to offer at the Farmer’s Market.  At some point, consumers became the boss.  Each farm should be able to produce what is best for their farm and the land they work.  This is why I like to support local farms, to give this movement a chance.  This is also why I like to have no set idea of what I will buy. Because if I lock myself into a pre designated list, I might miss out on the offerings that may not be as popular. And if everyone bought what the farmer wants to sell, we can start to turn this thing around. 

Solo Travel: Disneyland and California Adventure

Ah…the Happiest Place on Earth.  Disneyland and its companion park, Disney California Adventure (DCA), are surely two of the most popular destinations in Southern California.  However, they are probably not 2 destinations that people think of going solo to.  But I’ve got to say, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

One of the major things about Disneyland is the cost.  There are different tiers of tickets, ranging from 1 Day/1 Park up to Multi-day Park Hoppers.  Since I live within driving distance, I opted to go with the 2 Day/1 Park a Day pass.  This was $185 when it was all said and done.  Although I live close, I don’t live around the corner.  I opted for a decently priced hotel for the night to make it easier on myself.  If you are coming from out of town, the hotels in the area are pretty decently priced.  I stayed at the Anaheim Wyndham.  I give it a Fair Rating, but it didn’t matter, as I was really only there to sleep.  When traveling solo, I like to pick chains I am familiar with and that are in a well populated area.  Safety first!

After park entry and lodging, the major variable cost wise you can play with is food!  The great thing about Disneyland and DCA is the wide range of food options.  There are quick options like pretzels, churros, etc. and full service options like Blue Bayou and Carthay Circle.  When traveling solo, your comfort level is always the most important.  Since I love eating a nice meal at a nice restaurant, I made sure I had one meal somewhere nice, and took advantage of all the quick options the rest of the day.



Must-Eat quick recommendations are as follows: 

*Corn Dog – This can be found at a little red cart at the end of Main Street.  Yes, there will be a line.  Yes, it will be worth it.

*Dole Whip – This can be found right next to the Tiki Room.  Although this is not a live or die item for me, it is for a lot of people.  And I won’t kid you, it is delicious.  Definitely get one if you have never had one, or if you are trying to kill some time.  Its the only place to get it, and there will surely be a line.

*Mickey shaped food – I had 2 versions.  I had the Mickey pretzel and the Mickey beignets.  The pretzel can be found all over the place.  The beignets can only be found at a couple places.  I got mine at the Mint Julep Bar in New Orleans Square.  They were delicious.    I’m not sure if the only other place to get a beignet here is actually outside at Downtown Disney.

*Candy – Whatever your preference, hard candy, fruity or chocolate, Disney does it right.  The one Must Eat item candy-wise is the Peanut Butter Heaven.  Do I really need to explain?  Heaven is in the name.  You can find delectable sweet treats in both Disneyland and DCA.

*CHURRO!!!!!! – Once again, you can find these all over the park.  They are probably the only must have, I won’t leave without one, item on the list.  A churro is the one thing that transports me back to being 5 years old, watching the Electrical Parade with my Grandpa.  One of the most reincarnations of the churro are the Churro Bites served at the Cozy Cone Motel in DCA.  They come with a side of chocolate sauce.  Wash them down with a Red’s Apple Freeze.





Must-Eat Sit Down Recommendations:

Probably the most popular of these options is the Blue Bayou.  It has a view of Pirates of the Caribbean, and their food is pretty good.  This time around, I opted for another restaurant, but I recommend it at least once.  This time around, at Disneyland, I opted for River Belle Terrace.  They were having a Fantasmic! Dinner Package that included priority view seating for Fantasmic! and a Prix-fixe menu.   Definitely worth it if you are going to watch Fantasmic!  The food was delicious and I was super impressed with the wait staff.  The next night, at DCA, I opted for a nice lunch instead of dinner.  I ate at Carthay Circle.  It is a replica of the now demolished Carthay Theatre in Los Angeles, and its beautiful.  The food was delicious (I recommend the pot stickers), and the service was outstanding.

The only downside to sit down restaurants now is that you need to make reservations.  I made mine about a week in advance for River Belle Terrace and same day for Carthay Circle.  Since I love old Hollywood, I knew I wanted to eat at Carthay.  However, they also have a winery themed restaurant as well, at DCA.

Other than being able to eat when and where you want (because no one else is there to dictate to you), you can navigate the crowds easier as a Solo Traveler.  Also, some rides have Single Rider Lines.  Biggest advantage in Disneyland is at Indiana Jones, and at DCA, Radiator Springs Racers.  An example of the difference is this…I walked up to Radiator Springs Racers, and the Wait Time said 80 Minutes.  In the Single Rider line, I was in and out in 20 minutes.  Even if there is no designated line at the ride you are on, sometimes, they ask if there are any Single Riders.  Trust me, any pride goes out the window when you can get on ride that much faster since you are by yourself.

Now, just a couple tips…

Don’t forget sunscreen.  Dress in layers (take advantage of the lockers).  Bring a power bank for your phone, camera or other electronics.  Use the bag/purchase check where available.  Don’t be afraid to ask cast members to take your picture.

And last but not least, don’t forget to buy yourself some mouse ears!

Happy Traveling!



Traveling Solo: Las Vegas

What do you do after a break up?  You get out and do something for you.  For a year, I had grown accustomed to do everything in a pair.  But now, I’m by myself.  It’s a temporary situation, but being alone and doing things by yourself really teaches you about you.  

For my solo, getting back to myself, trip, I decided to head to one of the greatest cities in the US; Las Vegas!  Now, I know what you’re thinking; scary, lonely, awkward.  Truth be told is that, if you have any comfort level with doing things solo, it is just the opposite.  My experience will be broken down into 3 parts; Lodging, Food, Entertainment.

Lodging:  I stayed at the Monte Carlo.  It has a central location and was decently priced.  The rooms were clean, although the hotel REALLY needs an update.  Check in was super easy and I was in my room in no time.  Staying somewhere central gave me some level of safety and I didn’t have to go too far to experience the city. 

Food:  Probably one of the biggest concerns of new solo travelers is eating by yourself.  The key to this is bar seating.  If you feel really self conscious, bar seating makes you feel more comfortable.  Another benefit of bar seating is that you can be seated quicker than if you get a table.  Just make sure the same menu is available to you.  With that being said, I didn’t take advantage of bar seating on this trip.  I always try to eat one fancy meal when I travel, particularly in Vegas.  My solo trip was the 3rd time in 12 months I had been to Vegas, and I’m a big fan of celebrity chef restaurants.  For this trip, I chose OTTO at the Venetian.  It’s owned by Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali.  It was fantastic.  I highly recommend it if you like Italian food.  

OTTO Enoteca at the Venetian

I also went to Bellagio’s buffet.  People are up and down from their table all the time.  No one even notices you are by yourself.  And you have to go to a buffet when you are in Vegas.  It’s a must.  

Entertainment:  This was a no-brainer  for me.  The key to this was to see a show that no one I had gone with previously had wanted to see or wanted to spend the money to see.  My decision: Beatles Love.  Best decision of the whole trip.  This show is a love letter to The Beatles and is visually stunningly.  And the best part is that you can spend more money on a ticket because you only need one, and you get a better selection as there are single seats open everywhere.  

The other activity I planned was going to the Neon Museum.  This is a little farther away from the Strip than most things, but it’s worth it.  Seeing the original Stardust sign, to me, was like seeing the Declaration of Independence.  

Stardust sign

My trip was fabulous.  I was forced to be my own person, and I had to answer to no one when it came to planning.  If I wanted a shake from Shake Shack at 1am, I just went.  If I wanted to see the Bellagio fountains 3 times, I could!  

Don’t forget the Fountains!

As a single woman, I felt relaxed and empowered.  Solo travel is like therapy.  And I can’t wait to do more of it.  I urge ANYONE to step out of your comfort zone and just do it!