8/31/10

The Biggins, Nuf Said

Thursday was a very good day. Not only was it a great day for freebies throughout the city (ie: Fekkai styling products and Van Leeuwen Ice Cream), but it was a great day for a Biggins Cupcake from the Cupcake Stop Truck.

I was updated via Twitter that the truck would be giving away 200 of these heavenly monstrosities at 1 p.m. last Thursday and chef Robert Hesse from seasons 5 and 6 of Hell's Kitchen (my guilty pleasure food show) would be on hand to sign autographs and hand out cupcakes. Sugar + Reality Show Celebrity? I pretty much had to go. 

The crowd outside the truck near Madison Square

Now the Biggins is no ordinary cupcake. Talk about gluttony. It's chocolate cake with a secret compartment of caramel and pecans on the inside, topped with a mound of peanut butter frosting and a double chocolate cookie and drizzled in caramel. I was able to pick up mine after only a short wait and I think my taste buds exploded just upon touching the thing.

The Biggins Cupcake

Before I made a mess of myself and enjoyed my dessert, I wanted to get a picture with Robert for the kids back home (that's you guys). He's a really mellow sweet guy - totally different in person than on the show being ridiculed and lambasted by Gordon Ramsay.

Chef Robert Hesse and Me

This is the second time I've experienced a free cupcake from the Cupcake Stop Truck, so if I were you, I'd make sure to follow their Twitter feed so that you can take advantage of the next one. Happy mmmmmm-ing!




8/26/10

Gratis Wining

Don't you just love when you find out about a series of ongoing events that you can attend free of charge, without a reservation, in a centrally located establishment, where you can taste (and by taste I mean get pretty tipsy off of) about four dozen different alcoholic beverages made from grapes, sometimes sample food and then purchase said beverages at a discounted price? Well, I do. If you do too, I highly suggest visiting Union Square Wines for one of their future Saturday wine tasting events.


 I popped in to the fairly large wine shop on the NW corner of 13th Street and 4th Avenue last Saturday afternoon for their Spanish Wine and Tapas Party with a couple of USW veteran friends. It's rare for me to turn down a free tasting so off I went, half expecting to be there for maybe half hour then find some cool coffee shop nearby and stay out of the rain. The store itself is neatly laid out with wines from all over the world, an exclusive tasting room up front where members can enjoy samples of some elite wines whenever tickles their fancy, and a bar area in the back where a good number of staff members were curating the tasting.

Even as a recently discovered oenophile (I don't claim to be an expert, but I have gotten know bit of terminology) I was lost in the Spanish descriptions and the Spanish names of the different grapes. So I was happy to just grab a glass and follow the herd. All said and done, we probably walked out of there after tasting at least 20 different wines. The selection ranged from sparkling whites, oaked whites and roses (very unique), smoky reds which tasted like a bbq in a bottle, and some fruity reds. Pricing on the bottles was very affordable, from about $10-$40 on average. I ended up purchasing one of the oaked roses, and if you know me, you know I'm sort of finicky on the rose side, so that was definitely some yummy stuff I tried. Since we got there on around 3:45, they were out of food, but word has it some great tapas samples were being circulated.

If you make a purchase, you are eligible to join USW as a member. You get a fancy card and everything. Basically, it's a point system. They start you off with 500 courtesy points and you get about 10 points per dollar spent every time you buy. You can spend the points in that elite tasting room previously mentioned, where they sometimes offer wines sold at more than $100 a bottle.

The next advertised event is for this Saturday from 2-5, the USQ's BLT Fest 2010: The Summer Series Final. They'll be pouring an assortment of different wines along with some good ole bacon, lettuce and tomato.I would get there closer to the 2 side so as to be able to snag some food. If you can't make it this weekend, keep checking the website all year long for some awesome looking ways to get drunk for free, I mean ways to be classy and refined. I'll definitely be back!

8/22/10

Squeals of Deals

You've heard of a love-hate relationship. Well, I have a love-love relationship with a website called Postabon. I've written about the fanciful prizes both my boyfriend and I have won by being active members (Met's tickets, iPad, Peter Luger's gift certificate, helicopter tour...) and people often ask me a one word question - HOW?!

First let me give you a little background. Postabon started as a final project for a couple of Harvard Business School students and turned into a full-fledged company after obtaining financial backing in 2009. The idea behind the site is sort of a community for deal sharers, Foursquare meets Retailmenot meets Google Maps. Users earn "Karma Points" for posting, sharing and commenting on deals around the city. I caught on to this genius back in May when they were offering Met's tickets to the first 20 users who earned 500 Karma Points. Simple enough.

Next time I logged in and the steaks were raised. An iPad was up for grabs for the user who earned the most Karma Points in a week. That's when I went a little gung-ho and ended up winning the contest, much to the surprise of pretty much everyone I knew. When I actually whip-out my new favorite toy is when I get all the queries of how they can get in on the action as well.

Another great thing about the site is that it's easy to use and provides great benefits for little effort. If you want to casually share some deals you find walking down the street, great. If you want to use the site and it's iPhone app (soon to be newly designed and available at the app store) to find deals in your neighborhood, cool. Or you can also get super into the site, apply to become a Guru (involves sending an email and getting a super-cool icon next to your name) and go for the contest wins, I'd welcome the competition. There are options for everyone.

Postabon also holds awesome events for Gurus. I recently attended a happy hour at West 3rd Common and a dinner at Brasserie Les Halles where I got to meet other Postabon-ers and swap deal tips. They also keep a pretty cool blog which features deals members post.

The majority of activity is currently in NYC, but they are expanding into other major cities like Chicago, San Francisco and Boston so all you have to do is sign up and start posting. Trust me, it's worth it :)

8/21/10

Let's Get Schnitzified!

One of my first Twitterelationships was with the Schnitzel & Things Truck. I was just learning about hashtags and follow fridays when a blog that I follow, Midtown Lunch, did a feature on the fried flattened chicken (as well as other proteins) on wheels business. I was intrigued. I grabbed a friend and we stood in a 15-minute long line honestly not knowing what to expect. We saw large platters being carried away by people who looked like they had waited their entire lives for this moment and we were excited. We wait and wait and finally we're first in line and...the truck has to move. But then it sat there for a good while after we left.

Disappointed and with only 40 minutes left on lunch break, we grabbed a deli sandwich and I Tweeted. 

"@Yaelleah: Sad 2b first turned away by @schnitzeltruck. But u sat in the same spot for @ least a half hr while u were "closing"? I wanted chik schnitz!"

An hour later, I learned the power of Twitter. I was offered a free lunch just for speaking up. About a week after, the truck was back in my work neighborhood and I grabbed another friend and we were off to get some schnitz. Surprisingly, both of us were offered free sandwiches and signature Tahitian vanilla pana cottas. We were in schnitz love.

The Schnitzel Truck parked downtown

One year later, I'm a devoted Schnitz fan. For those of you unfamiliar with this awesome food, it's basically flattened and fried chicken/pork/veal/cod/burger (yes, burger) on a sandwich with grilled bread, lettuce, tomato and a choice of gourmet condiments. My favorite menu items are the Chicken Schnitzel sandwich with pesto mayo ($8) and for sides the beet and feta salad and the Austrian potato salad ($10 with a schnitzel platter).

Chicken Schnitzel platter with beet and feta and Austrian potato salad

One of my other favorite things about Schnitzel & Things is its origins. The man behind the truck and Twitter account, Oleg Voss, was a former investment banker who decided that life looked better on the schnitz side, turned his life upside down and started this business. I say kudos to him and his business partner Jared Greenhouse for having an idea and sticking to it. Makes my lunch breaks that much more exciting. See you downtown next Monday!

To check with the truck will be in your neck of the woods next, follow their blog and twitter account and let me know how much you love the food :)

8/19/10

AWESOME DEAL: 50% off a $50 Gap Gift Certificate

So I opened my inbox this morning and found something too good to not pass along to all of my friends and readers. I'm sure you've all heard of Groupon, the online daily deals and group buying site that has virally spread around the world within the last 18 months. Well, today only, they are offering a national Groupon - first time ever! - and offering a $50 gift certificate to the Gap for only $25. This can be used in store and you can also buy sale items with this gift certificate. If I were you, I'd head on over to Groupon, because hey, everyone loves the Gap.



Click here to get yourself this amazing deal! I already did :) Groupon's Deal of the Day 8/19: Get $50 worth of GAP apparel and accessories including sale items for only $25!

8/16/10

AWESOME ALERT: Fashion's Night Out 9/10/10

Sometimes it's hard to know if something is going to be awesome before the actual event. The majority of my posts are post-event details with photos to oogle and stories that stir. However awesome people, I'm here to tell you about an event that you have 4 whole weeks to plan for and is sure to knock your Louis Vuitton socks off!


Last year, Fashion's Night Out was a fabulous night coordinated by Vogue and many of the fashion powerhouses in the city to promote, well, fashion and especially spark shopping in the midst of the recession. Not really knowing what to expect, my friend Rebecca and I mapped out our evening really according to who had the best giveaways and food. Tory Burch had great Champagne, Chanel was giving manicures and I received a freshwater pearl bracelet from Tous - all for free! Celebrities were everywhere and people were out having fun in full force. We did the majority of our frolicking in Soho, but stores are participating from the West Village to Soho and Midtown to the Upper East Side.

This year's event will be held on Friday September 10, 2010 in many cities throughout the world. You will be able to find great designer clothing in a fun setting with some discounts and The first participants have been posted to the website so check it out and start planning your adventure now!

8/13/10

Guests Come, Time to Eat, Play, Walk

Many people often ask me what they should do around town when they have guests. Though most people who live outside of New York are morally (it seems) against walking, it's truly the best mode of transportation to really see the city. Mike's brother, Jason, was recently in the city for the day and I wanted to show him a good time. Starting in the Financial District and ending at Penn Station, where we dropped him off to catch the train, we probably logged at least 6 miles for the day. Tip #1 for your guests: wear comfortable shoes!

Jason and Mike on the Brooklyn Bridge

We started our journey with a walk halfway across the Brooklyn Bridge and back. This is really one of the best ways to get a feel for the city. This bridge has been around for more than 100 years and is a one-of-a-kind structure. The bridge in itself is truly a microcosm of the city if you think about it - you get city views, street vendors, a historical perspective and an opportunity to experience the hostility of local pedestrians and bikers.

Next stop, a walk through Chinatown and the Lower East Side. Tourists always get a kick out of Chinatown with its knock-off purses, super cheap tchatchkes, alive and dead animals in shop windows and its funky smells (oh that durian fruit). I love the area as well. There's no better place to find good bubble tea, dumplings, and just about anything you ever wanted to buy for cheap.

Crab tied up in what seemed to be a corn husk among krill.

Eldridge Street Synagogue

The immigrant history of the Lower East Side is dense and the architecture shows it. The Eldridge Street Synagoge on well, Eldridge Street, was built when this area was settled by Jewish immigrants from Russia, Poland, Ukraine and all other parts of Europe. It's gorgeous on the inside and I'd highly recommend a tour. A visit to the Tenement Museum, currently undergoing a revamp, is also a great way to spend an afternoon.

We kept north and ran into one of my favorite holes in the wall, Prosperity Dumpling. This is THE place for dumplings. At 5 for $1, you can order boiled or fried pork and chive dumplings, and their 75 cent sesame pancake is my go-to snack. Everything else on their menu is super cheap as well and the same guy is always running the show in front and taking orders. Definitely check it out, but make sure you take your food to the nearby park to eat as there is limited and crowded seating inside Prosperity.

Jason with his dumplings

Still heading north, we took another pit stop at a place I've been longing to try since it opened a few months ago - The Meatball Shop. Another awesome thing about NYC eating establishments is that so many of them get off with touting one food item. There's Peanut Butter and Co. in Greenwich Village, Rice to Riches (rice pudding) in Soho, and S'mac (mac 'n cheese) in the East Village with its many flavors of the glorious comfort food, and now The Meatball Shop.

The menu listed several types of balls (beef, chicken, pork, veggie and a special - lamb when we were there) and several types of sauces (pesto, spicy meat, marinara, mushroom, parmesan cream, etc.). We did the naked balls, since the boys were full from their dumplings, which was 4 balls with a sauce served with a slice of focaccia bread. You also have the option of ordering a sandwich or meatball sliders. In addition to the meatballs, this place had a great selection of sides (I'd love to come back and try the special risotto), drinks (every day is a special lemonade!) and, wait for it, homemade ice cream! You can even select your favorite type of cookie and flavor of ice cream and they'll serve up a highly dangerous looking ice cream sandwich. 

The Meatball Shop

Although we didn't go in, Katz's Deli is a NYC landmark. It was featured in "the scene" from Harry Met Sally and is known for it's ginormous sandwiches. There's a great window where you can watch the master sandwich builders and knish makers work.

Jason and Mike at Katz's

We ended our food journey at Mike's new favorite place - Lula's Sweet Apothecary in the East Village. It's a completely vegan, dairy-free and mostly organic ice cream shop and since Mike is lactose-intolerant, he was finally able to indulge in a banana split without disastrous effects. Even I, a hard-core ice cream fanatic thought this sundae was amazing. The ice cream didn't taste anything less than the super creamy dessert I know and love. The hot fudge and marshmallow sauce were flowing, sweet and gooey. I did notice a slight texture difference in the whipped cream, but by that point I didn't really care because this thing was the real deal. Lula's also serves "ice cream" shakes and malts, brownie sundaes and a myriad of different flavors on cones. If you are milk-free for whatever reason, I'd run to go find this place.

Lula's Banana Split

Weighed down by fried meat in dough, meat in balls and 3 scoops of ice cream with all the fixins, we slowed down a bit. Headed in the general direction of Penn Station, we strolled through Union Square just to give Jason the vibe (and stop to use Nordstom Rack's restrooms - very nice I might add). If we had more time, and a third stomach, I would have liked to go to Max Brenner's, Chocolate by the Bald Man. They have amazing chocolate food, regular food and like a million different varieties of hot chocolate. I'm not kidding, like a million - Swiss, Mexican, Italian, white, milk, dark, in a hug mug, with caramel, rice crispies, whipped cream. I don't believe I've ever not taken an out-of-town guest there and every single one still raves about it.

I hope I've given you some good ideas for the next time you play city host or hostess. I'd love to know what your favorite places to take your guests are. Leave a comment and let me know!

Lula's Sweet Apothecary on Urbanspoon

Braeburn on Urbanspoon

Lula's Sweet Apothecary on Urbanspoon

8/12/10

Thirsty anyone?

New York is known for some awesome pieces of public art that can be intriguing, confusing, beautiful and thought-provoking. Who ever thought public art could be both spontaneous and functional? 


I saw this the other day on Spring Street near the intersection of Thompson Street and I just thought I'd share. There was something about the way the water was arching out from the hydrant to the street and the way the light was hitting it that caught me. Anyone ever seen something like this before?

8/11/10

It's a bird! No, a plane! No, it's awesome in a helicopter!

Through the awesomeness that is Postabon, Mike recently won a tour for two of Manhattan. Not by taxi, double-decker bus or by mule, but by chopper! I can't even tell you how excited I was when I found out because this isn't something normal people do. I mean for one, it's expensive, and two, well, who was the last person you knew who went on a helicopter?


We arrived at the Downtown Manhattan Heliport on a cloudy but warm Sunday abuzz with anticipation.  I had been on a helicopter once before on a family trip to Hawaii. There were at least eight passengers, but I ended up being one of two people who did not up-chuck lunch after some gnarly turbulence (and that was only because there were no more little baggies left for us). So I was careful not to eat a big lunch before this adventure, but truthfully I wasn't really worried about that this time.

The staff led us out onto the tarmac (is it still called a tarmac?) and boy was that baby loud and windy! They were taking touristy pictures of our co-passengers, a family from Mexico, while we tried as best as we could to get our own without paying the $20+ they charged for a take home souvenir. 


Once we were in the helicopter, the noise only gets louder, so they give you fancy dancy headphones equipped with microphones so you can talk to everyone and the pilot can give his tour. I'd have to say that the coolest part about the ride itself was the take-off. All of the sudden you are just up in the air and you don't even realize - no extra noise or thrust - and you can just sit back and enjoy the view as you get higher.


We swung around Lower Manhattan toward the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I decided then that I need to go revisit Ms. Liberty since she's now open on the inside again. Now I just need some out of town visitors to drag with me...

Mike with his fancy dancy headphones and Ms. Liberty

Next we came back to downtown and I caught a glimpse of my office (how cool!). It's in the Trinity Building (the two-towered turn-of-the-century building toward the center of the photograph) on the 13th floor. Nobody was there (duh, it was a Sunday), but I waved anyway.


Our chopper continued north and I couldn't believe the amazing perspective I was gaining on my city. It's one thing to see pictures that other people have taken, but to actually know that we were hovering at just above the height of some of the buildings below us was pretty awesome. I kept trying to point out landmarks and friends' apartments.

Times Square is in there somewhere.

Me with my fancy dancy headphones.

Central Park! This is the view I see every 
morning on the ABC7 weather report :)

The Jackie O. reservoir in Central Park with my favorite
two-towered UWS building in the foreground (also my
apartment is somewhere in the background).

We passed over Columbia, one of the most gorgeous urban campuses in my opinion, and looped around Yankee Stadium. It was interesting to see the empty lot that was the old stadium. I think they are turning it into parking.

Yankee Stadium and the Bronx

Coming back south, I was able to get a few better photos of some West Side landmarks.

The Intrepid (check out the submarine on the left!)

Downtown Manhattan

Overall, this was an awesome experience I won't soon forget. I am so in love with this city and I am ever grateful to Postabon for allowing us to do something most people never get to do.

Me and Mike

8/6/10

Steak Heaven

I must preface this post with a little background on how I ended up dining at a NYC legend of a steakhouse (especially since this was my third steakhouse dinner in 3 weeks). A few months ago I discovered Postabon, a community for deal-sharers. A new site, Postabon is in the process of building a community and thus holds weekly contests with some pretty sweet prizes (this week it's a Kindle!) for activities like earning the most "Karma Points" (which you earn by posting, sharing and commenting on deals), posting the most deals or referring the most people. What got me hooked was an iPad giveaway, and yes, I won it. Talk about stirring up intrigue! I get so many questions when I whip out my fancy-dancy digital media device and I happily refer everyone to the website. Two weeks after the big win, Postabon gave away 3 $150 gift certificates to Peter Luger Steakhouse. I ended up winning one and after I got my boyfriend, Mike, hooked on the site, he won another. This was our first adventure.

Good news! After months and months of brain-breaking studying, Mike finally completed the first step of the US Medical Licensing Exam! We needed to celebrate and I knew just the place. Under the East River and down Driggs Ave. it's off to Peter Luger's we went!


All I really knew about the establishment was that it was cash-only, very expensive, had a reputation for snooty service and served AWESOME steak. Walking into the restaurant, it felt like I could have been in any era - the place is timeless (it's been around since 1887 so I guess it has to be). We made reservations, which you absolutely need about 2 months in advance I'd advise, and only had to wait a couple of minutes for our table. 


Contrary to what we expected, our waiter, Bernard, was warm, welcoming and very happy to make recommendations. The menu is very simple with few options for add-ons and the way your order steak is not by cut or even by oz. You can either get Steak for 2, Steak for 3, Steak for 4, or Steak for 6. Expensive aside (you have to just suck it up if you've already made it in the door), the meat was incredible! When steak goes to heaven, this is where it goes; super buttery in texture with a nice crisp on the outside. As for sides, and you have to order something else all you'll be eating is cow, we started with the Caesar salad and had the German-fried Potatoes and Creamed Spinach. The salad was pretty standard, but nicely dressed, while the potatoes were yummy but not that different from your typical home fries. The thought of creamed spinach takes me back to the days of eating in my dreary elementary school cafeteria, but I could have eaten this stuff by the bowlful. Not overly creamy and still with a fresh spinach flavor, this side is a must-do.

My plate: Creamed spinach, German-fried potatoes and steak

In the end, we were too full for dessert, but after seeing the table next to us order special "Holy Cow" ice cream sundae, I'm definitely game for that next time. All of their desserts are served with homemade Schlag, or amazing amazing creamy whipped cream.

I know NYC has so many hip and trendy eating establishments you would like to try, but trust me on this one. Oldies can be goodies and Peter Luger Steakhouse is a goodie. Make your reservations now for October!



Peter Luger Steak House on Urbanspoon

8/1/10

AWESOME DISCOVERY: The Postelles

I enjoy music. Honestly, I'm not picky (with the exception of country and hardcore rap). But sometimes you come across a new band that you just can't get out of your head. My latest aural discovery is an NYC-based punk band called The Postelles

Citysearch recently had a facebook contest - one of those "leave a comment and someone will randomly receive x, y and z" - and I was offered two tickets to see The Postelles Wednesday at Bowery Ballroom. Since had had no plans that night, I like music and Bowery Ballroom is a pretty cool place, I figured, hey why not?

My cousin Nola and I arrived too late to see the opening group, but we did (perhaps unfortunately) arrive to hear the second opener, The Beets. With a homemade sign on a sheet, The Beets announced that they were there to "sell soul to a souless people who've sold their souls" and they were "latins going platinum." Ok. 

The Beets with their sheet sign

The Beets were pretty one note, with some curious and repetitive lyrics. After the second song, we became pretty anxious for the real show to start. However it did give my cousin to randomly reconnect with two old high school friends she hadn't seen in years. This is why I love New York.

Me and Nola at Bowery Ballroom

When The Postelles began to play their first song, suddenly the half empty ballroom was filled with people. I really don't know where they all came from, but people were excited. The music was a great mix of familiar English-inspired punk with an awesome NYC twist. The band was having fun and some dedicated fans were singing along to every word. Some of my favorite songs were "White Night" and "Can't Stand Still." 

The Postelles

Unfortunately their album doesn't come out until October, but I'm definitely buying. Until then, you can check them out on YouTube and Myspace, and they have a free download of "White Night" on their website.

During the encore, the band brought up some fans on the stage and everyone had a great time. Thanks Citysearch!