Macaron Gratuit (AKA: Free Macarons!)

Ever since attempting to make macarons on my own have I come to appreciate the beauty of a perfectly made little sandwich cookie. These guys are HARD to make and that's why they come with the hefty price tag you've no doubt seen at dozens of macaron bakeries that have popped up around the city in the past year.

So imagine my glee when I discovered that ALL 11 Financier Patisserie locations are giving away free macarons tomorrow 3/1 at 10:30 am. To get yours, you just need to show your loyalty card, which you can get from their website for free. From the email I received, it seems that supplies are limited so make sure to get there early if you want to taste some sweet goodness. If you miss the macarons, I'd highly recommend any thing else in their pastry display. Seriously, it's all good.

Alcohol for Art

If you're not coming to the concert on Thursday, I have a fun happy hour deal for you. I don't know how many of you have been down to check out the bar inside Whole Foods Columbus Circle (yes, I said a bar in a grocery store), but it's pretty cool.

From 6-8 pm on Thursday 3/1, if you check in to On Tap on Foursquare, you can score $1 off beer and wine and $2 off pitchers and a free large beer hall pretzel. This event is to promote the newly launched Water Tank Project, a public art undertaking in which hundreds of NYC water tanks will be transformed into masterpieces in the spring of 2013. On 3/1 5% of sales at NYC Whole Foods will be donated to the non-profit organization.

$29 Tickets for Leap of Faith on Broadway

It's not often that a leap day comes around, so of course it should be a reason to celebrate and give discounts! A new Broadway show is doing just that! Today only, you can get $29 tickets to the show Leap of Faith, which stars Raul Esparza as Jonas Nightingale, the lead singer of a performing troupe that's, let's just say, less than honorable. However, he'll tell the story of how he found redemption through a strong-willed woman and a spirited boy.

Discounted tickets are available for the first week of previews April 3-7, and to get them you must either visit broadwaybox or call 212-947-8844 and use code LF229LP, or visit the box office at the St. James Theater (246 West 44th Street) today only.


AWESOME GIVEAWAY: Carnegie Hall Concerts

Carnegie Hall is just one of those places you have to check out a concert or two in while you're living in or visiting New York City. You may say that you aren't a fan of classical music or that the sound of the violin puts you to sleep, but there's something about the acoustics/atmosphere of Carnegie Hall that just brings the music to life and gives you a whole new appreciation.

Lucky for you, I'm announcing my 3rd giveaway of the week - I believe it's a new record! Distinguished Concerts International is sponsoring three concerts over the next month at Carnegie Hall and has given me 4 pairs of tickets to give away for each concert. That's 12 pairs of tickets people! The concerts available are on Friday 3/2 at 8pm featuring Soprani Compagni,  Friday 3/16 at 8pm featuring Trio Lorca, and Saturday 3/24 at 2pm featuring The Werner Chamber Quartet. All concerts will be held in the Weill Recital Hall and tickets are valued at $50 each.

Since one concert is much sooner than the others, I've switched up how I'm asking you to enter these giveaways. You have until tomorrow 2/29 at 5pm to enter for the 3/2 concert and until Friday 3/6 at 5pm to enter for the 3/16 and 3/24 concerts. You have to fill out a form for each concert you would like to go to, so technically you could win tickets for all three concerts. Follow the directions on the forms and good luck!


AWESOME GIVEAWAY: 2 Tickets to Nice Work If You Can Get It

No decade will ever be able to compare to the roaring 20's. From flappers to bootleggers, playboys to corrupt politicians (oh wait, we have those), the 20's were a time of extravagance and revelry. However, almost a century later, heavy hitters Matthew Broderick (The Producers) and Kelli O'Hara (South Pacific) along with director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall (Anything Goes) and writer Joe DiPietro (Memphis) are taking on the 20's with the Gershwin's Nice Work If You Can Get It.

Having seen Mr. Broderick on Broadway before, I'm super excited for this show as he's an amazing performer. Also, by the list of tall names on the rest of the cast and the crew, it seems this show is sure to be a smash. Previews begin March 29th with an opening night of April 24.

All my readers are in luck! I'm giving away 2 pairs of tickets to see Nice Work If You Can Get It on Broadway! The tickets must be picked up at the box office the day of the show. There are 4 easy ways to win and each comment counts as an entry. Please include your email in any and all comments so I know how to contact you if you are the winner.

1) REQUIRED - Follow this blog by clicking on the button on the right panel and leave a comment below letting me know you did so.

2) REQUIRED - Leave a comment below letting me know why you want to see this show and who you will bring if you win.

3) Follow me on Twitter @yaelleah and leave a comment below letting me know you did so.

4) Tweet about this event "I just entered to win 2 tix to see Matthew Broderick on Broadway in Nice Work if You Can Get It on Awesome In New York! http://bit.ly/w1yyms" and let me know with a link to your tweet in a comment below.

Two winners will be chosen using Random.org on Friday 3/2. You have until Friday 3/2 at 12 p.m. EST to enter the contest. Good luck!

If you can't wait and want to order tickets ASAP, here's a deal for you for shows through April 23. To get Orch/Fr. Mezz, Rear Mezz A-C for $79-89 (reg. $121.50 - $136.50) and Rear Mezz D-F, Side Rows A-C for $69 (reg. $86.50) visit BroadwayOffers.com or call 212-947-8844 and use code NWPR220. You can also use the code at the box office beginning March 1.

Winners have been chosen! Congratulations Kelly and Kristin! They have each won a pair of tickets to Nice Work if You Can Get It! Enjoy and thanks to all who entered!

AWESOME GIVEAWAY: 3 Tickets to An Epic Concert

So this awesome concert I piqued your interest about on Friday...you've probably spent all weekend wondering what it's all about (or you haven't, that's cool too). I can now officially release some of the details!

First, the concert will be this Thursday night 3/1 beginning at 9pm with the doors opening at 8pm at a location near midtown Manhattan. You will need a ticket to get in, and although they are free, tickets are extremely limited. Tickets officially go "on sale" today 2/27 tomorrow 2/28 at 9:00 am EST by going to this website. I'm also giving away 3 general admission tickets (see below).

As for the headliners, this is going to take you back to the 90s, although these 2 artists have sustained their careers well into the present and future. One recently gave birth to twins nicknamed Rock n' Ro and the other has gone by so many variations of his name in the last several years that I don't always know what to call him other than something that rhymes with "me giddy." The MC is also someone who many of you will recognize from the music/reality TV world - Pussycat Dolls anyone?

While I can't confirm or deny any other rumors swirling about the concert, I'm pretty positive there will be other celebrities present as well because the sponsor of this event is a big name in the entertainment world.

Here's how the giveaway is going to work. I'm giving away a total of 3 general admission tickets to 3 lucky readers. Winners' names will be on a list at will-call at the concert. There are 4 easy ways to win and each comment counts as an entry. Please include your email in any comments so I know how to contact you if you are the winner.

1) REQUIRED - Follow this blog by clicking on the button on the right panel and leave a comment below letting me know you did so.

2) REQUIRED - Leave a comment below letting me know who you think the 2 headlining artists are as well as the MC. Also, any guesses as to who the sponsor of this event is?

3) Follow me on Twitter @yaelleah and leave a comment below letting me know you did so.

4) Tweet or blog about this event and let me know with a link to your tweet or blog in a comment below.

Three winners will be chosen and notified on Wednesday morning 2/29. You have until Tuesday 2/28 at 8 p.m. EST to enter the contest. Good luck!

Winners have been chosen! Congrats to Laura, David and Lud/Scoopstweet! You have each won yourself a ticket to tomorrow's concert featuring Mariah Carey, P. Diddy and Nicole Scherzinger! Please check your emails for details. Thanks to everyone who entered and if you weren't one of the lucky winners, make sure to enter the 2 other giveaways I have running right now for Broadway tickets and Carnegie Hall concert tickets.


Cheap Drinkin'

There are numerous reasons to love Yelp. My top reason for next week is the 2nd Annual Yelp Drinks! Basically a week-long happy hour across the city (even in Jersey!), Yelp Drinks includes some of my favorite bars (ie: Hotel Chantelle), some bars I've been dying to try (ie: Lani Kai), and some fancy bars too (ie: David Burke Kitchen). Each venue is offering 3 drinks for half off from Monday February 27th to Sunday March 4th.

The great thing about this promotion is that there are no coupons, secret codes, etc. -- just a plain ole' special menu and some awesome cocktails. Check out the list of participating bars in Manhattan here and let me know which cocktail you are most excited to try.

AWESOME ALERT: Free Awesome Concert Thursday 3/1

Attention readers! You may have seen me allude to the fact that big things were going to happen on the blog this month on Twitter. Well, now's the time you need to pay attention.

I can't give away too many details, but if I were you I'd clear your calendars on Thursday evening March 1 for the most epic concert of the year, happening right here in NYC. There will be some big names you will all recognize, and best of all, you can get in for free!

Stay tuned next week and I'll reveal more details. I will say this, while tickets are free, you still have to snag one. In addition to the 3 I'll be giving away next week, tickets will go "on sale" here on Monday morning 2/27 Tuesday morning 2/28 at 9:00 am EST (The link won't work until then but I thought I'd give you the heads up). Who's excited?


AWESOME DEAL: 15% Off at Pure Barre

I have never been a "fitness" person. When I work out, I want to have fun and not think about how much I'd rather be watching re-runs of Project Runway at home while snacking on Reese's Pieces (well, that's an exaggeration, but a girl can dream).

One thing I've loved about living in NYC is the vast availability of new "hip" workouts for me to try. A few months ago I stumbled upon an amazing offer on Gilt City for a 2-month unlimited class package at the newly opened Pure Barre in Columbus Circle. Having tried a sample class at The Bar Method last summer and totally trusting Gilt City because their recommendations are awesome, I roped a coworker into purchasing the package with me and we started classes after the first of the year.

The premise of Pure Barre (a national chain started by dancer Carrie Rezabek Dorr in 2001 with locations currently in 25 states) is using small isometric movements at the ballet barre to the beat of motivating music to lift your seat, tone your thighs, abs and arms, and burn fat. Hence their mantra: lift, tone, burn!

The first few classes, I'm not going to lie, were hard. Each class follows a rigid structure. First, you warm up your entire body using small weights, your own body weight, and the dreaded 90-second forearm plank. Next you move into thighs and then seat. Using only the barre and a small rubber ball, when you do the exercises correctly, your legs shake almost uncontrollably, but that's how you know "your muscles are changing," the bubbly instructors always say. From there, the class focuses on firming your core through a series of exercises at the bar and then on a mat. Lastly, you finish up with some funky "back dancing" to give one final push to the seat and thighs and then some relaxing stretching.

Six weeks in, and I can see a change in my body. My arms have more definition, my core is stronger than it's ever been, and I can do way more full (non on-your-knees) push-ups than I have ever been able to do before. My goal was to go 4-5 times a week, and this has been super easy because they offer plenty of classes at all sorts of convenient times throughout the day. The teachers are all very friendly and down-to-earth, the studio is clean (though it does get a bit hot and crowded sometimes), and the general vibe is very open and not snooty like I thought it might be.

The only real negative for me is the cost, and while I got an amazing deal on Gilt City (keyword: amazing), I have no idea if they plan to run another one any time soon. However, Pure Barre has generously provided me with a 15% off discount code for my readers good through the end of February: AWESOME. To use it visit their online store here, select the package you want and enter code AWESOME in the promotional code box. You should see the discount reflected before you purchase. After that, just sign up for the classes you want and have fun! Keep in mind that some of the busier classes end up with a waiting list, so it's best to sign up as early as possible.

Disclosure: Although Pure Barre gave me a free class for writing this post, I really and truly have become addicted to this workout and just renewed for another month of unlimited classes! The discount code AWESOME is good for all packages except the new client, baby bounce back and bridal specials and is good through 2/29/12.

The Namesake of Falafel

One thing any New Yorker can tell you is that there is NO shortage of falafel options in this city. Sometimes I look around and think I'm in Tel Aviv or something. From street carts, to hole-in-the-wall joints, chains to fancy $10 pita sandwiches, how's a girl to choose? While I'm all for the street cart (as long as you don't see any little critters crawling on it), I was recently invited to Chickpea to see what they are all about.

Chickpea in the CitiCorp Building is PACKED at lunch time

A NYC mini-chain, Chickpea has 7 locations throughout Manhattan with an 8th opening soon on the Upper East Side and potentially a site in Brooklyn in the future. Named for the main ingredient in both falafel and hummus, Chickpea was born from the concept that food should be healthy, fresh and innovative. Sure you can get your standard falafel and hummus on a pita, but if you're in the mood for spinach broccoli falafel with jalapeno garlic hummus on a whole wheat pita, they can hook you up too. Another thing that makes them different is that all their falafel is baked, not fried like it usually is. The salad bar is also one of my favorite parts because you can load up your pita or platter with fresh veggies and tahini.

Falafel choices
Hummus choices

In addition to falafel, Chickpea offers meat options like chicken schwarma, lamb kebab, grillled steak and the inventive schwafel (the best of both worlds!).

Chickpea workers
For my lunch, I ordered a schwafel sandwich on whole wheat pita with red pepper hummus. It came in this little cute box that seems like it would make eating falafel on the run an easier task.

When I took it out of the box, it looked like a much more manageable sandwich than some other's I've eaten before. The pita is cooked in a way that makes it more like a taco than a blorb of a meal (I don't know if blorb is a word, but you know exactly what I mean).

One thing I was concerned with was the fact that the falafel was baked, and I thought that might make it really dry. However, I was wrong. The entire sandwich was moist (and not in a soggy pita kind of way) and tasty. The salad that came with it was constantly surprising me with new veggies and the red pepper hummus gave a nice flavor kick.

Moist falafel
The sandwich was the perfect size for a lunchtime meal, not too filling, but the guys at chickpea threw in a piece of their homemade honeycake which I saved for later. I don't usually buy things like honeycake, or any dessert for that matter, with lunch. However, if you find yourself at Chickpea, do yourself a favor and ORDER THE HONEYCAKE!

I'll admit it doesn't look that impressive all wrapped in cellophane, but this moist concoction was jam-packed with so much honey, yet it wasn't sticky. The coconut on top played to another one of my favorite flavors and the texture was cakey and bready at the same time. I guess what I'm saying is Chickpea's honey cake is like the love child of corn bread and tres leches cake, and at only $3.25 it's a steal.

Honey cake close up shot
What I once though was just a standard lunch option is now definitely in my top 10.  Not only was the food tasty, healthy, and wholesome, but the philosophy behind the company and the workers really struck a chord with me. If you have a Chickpea near you, I would highly recommend a schwafel and a honey cake for your next lunch, and if you don't have one near you, I would highly recommend finding one for dinner.
Chickpea Midtown on Urbanspoon

Don't Be a Square, Go Cuban

Ok, I'll admit the title is a little cheesy, but with the breadth of different flavors present throughout the NYC cuisine scene, I find good, authentic Cuban to be underrepresented. Good thing I found Cafecito in the East Village to quench my craving for fried plantains, mojitos and bistec empanizado.

Owner Manny Garcia invited me and a guest to check out his menu, all recipes crafted by his mother and slightly updated for modern times, on a recent Tuesday night. A tell-tale sign that a restaurant is good is obviously a wait. When we arrived, not only were people waiting for tables at 8:30 pm, but the bar area was packed with folks sipping mojitos and other concoctions. The only thing missing was the live music, although this place is tiny even by NYC standards, and I have no idea where a band would even go.

We were welcomed with mojitos (yum!) and seated once the crowd died down a bit. For an appetizer, we sampled the Saboricito De Cuba (which I'm assuming means "taste of Cuba") that came with a papa rellena, 2 empanadas, a frita cubana and 2 croquettas de jamon mariquitas. There was a lot of fried happening on this plate, but it was all delicioso. The papa rellena was my favorite, but honestly everything was superb.

Saborocito de Cuba

For entrees, I ordered the cod special with yellow  rice and fried plantains and my guest had the house special Churrasco with chimichurri sauce, lime cured onions, yellow rice and black beans. Though slightly oily, the cod was tasty and light. The rice was moist and who can dislike fried plantains? Really? These were amazeballs. The churrasco was slightly overcooked and chewy, but also tasty. The beans and rice together were a classic combo and I kept stealing beans because they were so yummy.

Cod Special with Yellow Rice and Fried Plantains
At this point we were already on round 2 of mojitos and our stomachs were verging on way-too-full. However, Manny would not let us leave without dessert (a man after my own heart!). He brought out both the Flourless Chocolate Cake and the Flan. I used to have a thing with flan; didn't like the jiggle. However, it's come to grow on me, and this was a prime example of great flan. The caramel glaze on top was a nice touch--not too sugary. While not Cuban per se, the chocolate cake was our favorite. It was served with ice cream and dulce de leche and was so light that it just melted as soon as the fork touched my lips.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

To top everything off, Manny sent over two small glasses of tres leches liqueur. The milky drink was the perfect digestif to end this meal; it was like drinking cake. I'm going to have to find me a bottle of that sometime very soon.

From the substantial crowd and relatively affordable prices (apps. $5-$14, entrees $14-$20), to the wonderful selection of Cuban sandwiches and the fried plantains, I'd give this joint 2 thumbs up. You can catch them on Scoutmob for a $10 discount through June (check the coupon on the app for details). For the negatives, expect to wait a while for a table even if you make a reservation, and be weary of consuming a lot of grease and fried foods.

If you're really feeling like you need some more Cuban in your life, Manny wants to share his Cuban Bread Pudding recipe with all my awesome readers. If any of you make it, be sure to come back and let everyone know how it came out!

Cuban Bread Pudding

The raisins should be soaked in the rum overnight, or at least for several hours. You
can use individual ramekins or a single taking dish.

1 cinnamon stick, ground
6 tb raisins
1/4 c aged anejo rum
1 c sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in 1/2 lengthwise
1 qt heavy cream
1 whole nutmeg ground
10 egg yolks
2 c cubed slightly stale Cuban or fresh bread
3 tablespoons sugar

To prepare the bread pudding: Soak the raising in the rum overnight. Place 1
tablespoon of the sugar on the work surface. Scrape out the vanilla bean seeds onto
the sugar and smear around to coat the seeds. Place this sugar-vanilla mixture in the
saucepan and add the cream, vanilla bean, nutmeg, cinnamon, and 1/2 c of sugar.
Bring the mixture to just under a boil. Remove immediately from the heat and let steep
for 20 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining sugar until
thick and pale. Slowly whisk in a small amount of the hot cream mixture to temper the
egg mixture, stirring continuously to prevent the eggs from cooking. Add a little more
at a time until the egg mixture is warm. Slowly pour the tempered mixture into the
remaining hot cream and whisk until smooth. Pass through a fine strainer.

Strain the rum from the raisins, reserving the rum. Sprinkle the raisins in the bottom
of (whichever container you are using) add the bread cubes on top of the raisins, and
sprinkle the bread with reserved rum. Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes before baking.
While resting occasionally push down the bread lightly with the back of a spoon so it
absorbs more of the custard.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the mixture in a baking pan lined
with a towel (to prevent the pan from sliding). Add enough boiling water to the pan to
come about halfway up the sides. Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil.

To serve, sprinkle the top with about 1/2 tablespoon sugar. Using a handheld propane
torch, caramelize the sugar all over the surface (alternatively, place under a very hot

Remove the pan or ramekins and allow the tops to harden for a minute.

Cafecito on Urbanspoon


Want an Extra Fifty Bucks?

Buy your groceries at Citarella? Frequent the make-up counters at Bloomingdale's or Macy's? Fancy a bagel with lox from Russ and Daughters? If you do any of these things and/or enjoy Broadway shows, shop at H&M, visit The Museum of the City of New York or The Met, dine at Dos Caminos or Plein Sud, you best pay attention.

American Express has launched their Get More NYC statement credit promotion and it's pretty simple. You spend $200 at at least 2 participating NYC merchants during the month of February and you get a $50 statement credit! They have limited the promotion to only 20,000 registrations so I'd highly recommend registering today. Once that's done, you can start planning what damage you are going to do at Banana Republic, Anthropologie, Ricky's NYC, etcetra, etcetra. Now the only question is, what will you do with that extra $50 in your pocket?

It's Baaaaaaaaack

It's February 1st and that can only mean one thing. Time for the 20th annual Hot Chocolate Festival from City Bakery! It may be pushing 60 degrees today, but that's certainly not going to stop me from salivating over delicious flavors planned for the month like caramel hot chocolate (2/11), beer hot chocolate (Brooklyn style 2/17 and Dublin style 2/24) and the mysterious leap year hot chocolate (2/29), all with a giant, fluffy, homemade marshmallow of course.

Check out the full calendar of flavors here and comment on which one you can't wait to try. Also don't forget to sample their peanut butter cookies (my favorite for only 75 cents!). Happy sipping!