Roberta’s Blanca

Back in November, I made reservations at a restaurant that I had heard a lot of buzz about. Roberta’s is a laid back pizza joint in Bushwick, Brookyln, home of the beloved hipsters.  In addition to the pizzeria, they also had a tasting menu that people raved about (it seated 4 people a night, and it was amazing… as you could guess, the waiting list was out of control).  Months went by with no response from them. Finally, in May, I received an email saying that the wait was over and we were now able to dine with them.  We scheduled the dinner for early June.

 

Our timing was perfect and lucky.  Between the time we put our names on the list and the time they called us, they opened a new expanded wing for their tasting menu, which now seats 12 in a separate, modern kitchen (technically a different restaurant called “Blanca“.)  It just opened a few weeks ago.  Moreover, three days before we ate there, the NY Times wrote an amazing article on them!

 

Our dinner turned out to be one of the most incredible culinary events of our life. Not cheap or fast, but incredible, memorable and worth it (it served as our 5th year wedding anniversary celebration). 27 courses of brilliant, creative, fresh, thoughtful, and not to mention delicious, food.  Here is our amazing experience!

Tiki Bar

Once you get to Roberta’s, you wait to be taken back to Blanca at the Tiki Bar. Just a hang out space outside that reminded me of the laid back west coast.

gate

This is the gate that you enter to take you back to Blanca. Once you leave Roberta’s and enter Blanca, it is a much more chic, sophisticated and elegant atmosphere. Both are incredible, though.

kitchen

Blanca seats 12 people at a counter top and you look out into the kitchen. Much of the experience is watching the chef and his assistants work and prepare the deliciousness.

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Best Chicken Truck in NYC

OK.  Left turn, today.  This blog has given you uber-healthy recipes for weird concoctions like Cauliflower-Broccoli Mash, Raw Brownies, and Kale Salad. Today, we are looking at… Street meat! I never thought I would be into it until I tried the chicken truck on the corner of 62nd and Madison.  Now, I am a convert.

cart

Meet Tony, the chef of this street cart.

This cart has been situated on various corners of 62nd and Madison for the last 25 years. So, Tony, is a legend. People come from all over — schools, businesses, apartments — to eat Tony’s food. Every day when I pass the line, I am always in awe of the number of people who line up for such a long time to eat street food. But let me tell you, it is so incredibly delicious and out-of-this-world, that I am hooked!

meat

Cooking up the meat (chicken and steak), onions, and peppers.

When we ventured out to try this cart, it was late in the day (no line), so we could ask embarrassing questions like “what do you sell?” etc…No menu, so we were clueless. Basically, you can get a salad with whatever meat, a platter of salad/rice/meat, a sandwich on pita, or a sandwich on a baguette. Every item looked scrumptious.

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Yankees!

Marriage is about compromise. There are some things that Ken and I share naturally together.  Waking up early. Working out. Being adventurous.  There are others that we don’t.

Ken grew up an avid professional sports fan.  His family had Jets season tickets for 25 years, and when we first moved to New York, he always tried to get me to go to a game with him and his friends.  I somehow always found a way out.  It wasn’t that I was totally against it (as long as the weather was warm).  For some reason, it just never happened (including the time when we were about to go and I slammed my hand in a glass door and had to go to the hospital.  Ken still went to the game.)

The Yankees are a) closer to Manhattan, and b) not an all day commitment.  So with thanks to Natori’s factors who gifted us tickets, we recently went to a game.  And it was great fun!

Arriving at the ballpark. For those of you non-sports fans, this is the "new" Yankee Stadium, which the Yankees moved to in 2009. It is right next to site of the old Yankee Stadium, which was demolished after the last game there in 2008.

Gorgeous spring night. That is me in the green hoodie. Strategically positioned so you can't see my enormous pregnant belly.

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Fred’s at Barneys NY

Fred’s at Barneys is our second kitchen. We eat there so much that I would feel comfortable walking in and opening the fridge to see what I want to eat. I know the menus (both lunch and dinner) backwards and forwards, and love almost everything I have tried there. We eat there so much that the waiters and hosts treat Ken as royalty (but when I go by myself, they often don’t recognize me!) I guess without Ken, I am just some other blonde, white, Upper East Side chick coming to eat at Fred’s for dinner. But if I am with Ken (who, yes, is more distinctive looking than me), the red carpet is rolled out! Holla!

Barneys

Barneys is located on Madison Avenue between 60th and 61st street. Barneys is a high end department store that specializes in high end designers, as well as more obscure and unique foreign brands.

Fred’s is located in Barneys on the 9th floor and is open for both lunch and dinner. The lunch scene is a full on fashion runway show with lots of celebrities, big time shoppers, tourists, and business people. It is always jam packed for lunch with people in the know. Dinners are much more subdued and low key — there is never a wait, never a scene, and one can always get a table (this is why we only go for dinner). Not only can you get a seat, but it is quiet and a perfect location for a tasty, quick, easy, reliable meal in a classy and quiet environment.

9th floor

Fred's is located on the 9th floor at Barneys. On your way up to Fred's, you can look at all the beautiful (and expensive) shoes on the 4th floor, the modern Co-op floor on 7th and 8th floors, or the handbags on the first floor. It is like eye candy before you eat a meal. Perfect combination of beautiful luxurious clothes and accessories with a great meal!

NY image

NY image. I am such a wanna-be photographer. But how cool did this taxi turn out?

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The Good Fork

I love to pretend that I live in suburbia (instead of in the middle of a concrete jungle island). As a result, Ken and I tend to drive more than the average Manhattanites (we are very lucky to have access to a car — life changer, I must say). It is a fun activity to hop into the car, drive downtown to dinner, explore areas that are hard to get to, and explore other boroughs. One of our absolute favorite field trips is to Red Hook (a remote area in Brooklyn on the water — very warehouse-esque, hip, and modern) and eat at an excellent restaurant called The Good Fork. The Good Fork is owned and operated by a couple who live close by to the restaurant with their family. The husband manages the restaurant and the wife is the head chef. Not only is the food memorable and delicious, but the service is superb, the ambiance low key and cozy, and the overall atmosphere is lovely, familiar, neighborhood-esque and chill. Nothing better than a drive over the Brooklyn Bridge to enjoy an excellent meal in an intimate setting.

drive

The drive. Depending on traffic we either go over the Brooklyn Bridge or through the Battery Tunnel (toll required).
door

The door leading to the restaurant. The Good Fork is located in a brick house.

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Spring To-Do Wish List in NYC

Nothing is better than New York in the Springtime (well besides the Pacific Northwest in the summer….). The trees bloom, flowers blossom, birds chirp, people shed off their layers, and the energy is vibrant. There is magic in the air and in the streets and you don’t seem to notice the cars honking, the pollution, the garbage, or the negative people; everything just seems to glisten and glow. This Spring, I have a lot to accomplish on my to-do list of activities, because before you know it, mid-May will be here, and I will have a little Baby Girl in one arm, a Toddler Boy in the other, and it will be nearly impossible to move off the couch. So even though I am a waddling whale, I want to take advantage of the city in the spring and knock off some of my wish list activities STAT. Here are some of them:

High Line Kids Earth Day

highline

This Earth Day, Sunday, April 22nd between 2 – 4 pm, the High Line will celebrate with live music, a giant communal mural, face painting, wildflower seed balls you can grow at home, and the Children’s Workyard Kit. Families will be able to dance, draw on a 15-foot mural, and partake in planting wildflower seeds in a garden. Kids will also be able to build vehicles, forts, creatures, structures, and machines from custom-designed wood planks, nuts, and bolts by Cas Holman. What seems better than that? I know that the past two summers, I have thoroughly enjoyed taking the little boy down to the High Line, playing and splashing barefoot in the water, eating popsicles, and being a part of a New York City moment. So for Earth day, 2012, I am so excited about heading down there and being a part of this celebration.

highline

Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge

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Le Pain Quotidien

I am a creature of habit. I have a routine for everything… exercise, sleep, and especially, food. As a result, I tend to frequent only a handful of restaurants in New York City. Don’t get me wrong, I love going to new and hip places, but I also love my local faves which I go to more often than not. It seems like now that I have a family of my own, I am more concerned about quality of food and proximity to home than hipness or anything else. Guess I am getting old. *Le sigh*

Le Pain Quotidien is one of my all-time-faves. It is perfect for breakfast or lunch and always hits the spot. Luckily for me, there are two close to our apartment (5 minute walk for a more crowded and intimate setting or a 10 minute walk for a spacious and more kid friendly version). The ambiance is uber European which makes me feel cultured, and relaxed. Wood interiors, classical music, French themed food… it’s almost like you ARE in Paris when you go there.

Many of the locations offer outdoor seating, which I always love.

Le Pain is still simple, rustic, and serene with or without Holiday decorations. (Yes, those are Christmas wreaths. Yes, it is 80 in March in NYC. So pretend those are not there.)

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Josie Natori Fall12

Josie Natori Ready to Wear Fall 2012 Fashion Show was held yesterday on Valentine’s Day at the Rubin Museum in NYC. And what a beautiful event it was! The venue was chic with its long spiraling staircase, the models were gorgeous (obvi), and the clothes were unique and breath-taking (as expected). So proud of my mother-in-law and the whole team at Natori! What a great success! Now, the stores need to buy every item and it will all be worth it!

The invitation

Aunt Aida

The show started at 2 pm. I got there at 2 on the dot. And it was so crowded, that this was my view. Hi Aunt Aida! Yep, no special treatment for me!

Champers

Champagne and Godiva Chocolate -- Whaddup?? Don't you love the fashion industry? Boozing on the job or on a break at 2 on a Tuesday? Nothing like going back to the office with a buzz from your "dentist" appointment.

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At Home Tailoring

I know…I am spoiled. I mean, everyone who lives in NYC is spoiled because we have everything at our fingertips. 10 dollar manicure? Around the corner. Green smoothie? 1.5 blocks away. Korean? Ethiopian? Indian? Pizza? Either around the corner, or a few subway stops away at most. Dry-cleaning? Picked up and delivered. Literally, anything and everything is accessible in no time flat.

My latest discovery in terms of an affordable convenience at your fingertips is at-home tailoring! Her name is Rachel Jones and she rocks.

Rachel

Meet Rachel Jones. Cutie-pa-tootie, tailor extraordinaire!

I know, totally spoiled. But in all seriousness, her prices are just the same as the dry-cleaning place around the corner (where you undress timidly with a sheet wrapped around you and you really never know what you are going to get)… and she comes to your home. Yep, you email her, make an appointment, and voila she is there, fits your clothes, and is on her way!  You get them back perfectly tailored in the next few days. Ideal, right? It’s the same price as trekking to your dry cleaner or tailor with better results.

Not only is Rachel a top notch seamstress, but she herself is fashionable, and is also a current fashion design student at FIT. As a result, she has a good eye and knows exactly what to do without your input. There is no questioning, because she knows best. She has been doing this job on the side for the past 2.5 years, since she started school, in hopes of someday becoming a designer or assistant designer after she graduates. She was an intern at Chris Benz in production and then she was hired part time as a production assistant AND then did *all* of the tailoring for his Spring and Fall 2011 shows. Amazing, right?

Chris Benz Spring 2011

Chris Benz Spring 2011. One of the many looks down the runway that was man-handled by Rachel herself!

Not only are the clothes tailored to perfection, but her presence and vibe are so positive that you just want to keep her and put her in your pocket. She is professional, yet personable, quirky, fun, and cute as a button. Rachel tailors everything from high-end designs to simple pairs of pants.

tailoring

Hard at work!

And she can put her spin on anything too, if that is what you want. Last summer, I asked her to change the hem of a dress and make it slightly more dramatic, and she convinced me that it was best to make it super dramatic and really short in front, and long in back. I didn’t second guess her for a second (she is way cooler than me) and I ended up loving the dress and wanting to wear it every other day.

pink pants

Men and women alike love Rachel and her work!

So trust me, if you need a good tailor and live in Manhattan, e-mail Rachel at rachelwhitneyjones@gmail.com, and you will never go back to having your clothes tailored at a store.

Until Wednesday, have a great start to the week! HAPPY MLK DAY!

— AYN, a.k.a, The Josie Girl

Flywheel

ShoesI love working out. I feel like I need to sweat in order to have a “complete” day. I am a gym rat that loves doing my workout routine but also love trying out new methods, ideas, classes, and fad workouts. Spinning classes are my current obsession. I used to love Soul Cycle because it was closest to my apartment — but to tell you the truth, the climate, people and atmosphere were so toxic that I stopped going. I loved the workout, but hated the scene — and let me tell you, the Upper East Soul Cycle was a SCENE. Gossip Girl central. SO many complaints that it was not worth the awesome workout.Gossip Girl

And then, Flywheel opened up nearby. Just as good of a workout at Soul Cycle, with less of a cult like feel, less attitude, and less of a mob scene.  It’s also easier to get into classes (getting into a Soul Cycle class was like getting into Harvard!) and closer to home!

FlywheelNothing makes me sweat as much as Flywheel. I leave drenched and refreshed. I always feel like I can climb another mountain after the class, or just sit on my tush all day, and either way, I will be happy as a clam. Classes are 45 minutes long, and push you to the next step. It is a full body workout, with cycling (obviously), and a ten minute combination arm sequence towards the end of the class. Every part of your body gets worked. Although classes are not cheap ($30), they give you shoes, water, and a towel in your little cubby.

Water and towels. Getting ready to sweat!

The bikes are set up in a stadium style, so everyone can see the teacher easily. The room is dark, the music is pumping, and man, is it awesome!

Stadium cycling.

There are three locations in Manhattan (Upper West Side, Upper East Side, and Flatiron) as well as locations around the tri-state area. My personal favorite teachers are Natalie C., and Chris T. I try to go once or twice a week, as I love to spice up my normal workout routine with a fun spin class.

Lobby

The Flywheel lobby

One of the reasons that I love Flywheel so much is that the teachers tells you what torque (power) and RPM (revolutions per minute) to be at — so you know how hard to push yourself and what your goal is. The teacher sets the goal but you can obviously push yourself harder or take it easy depending on how you feel.

Torque and RPM

 

Sweaty me after class

I took (i.e. forced) my husband to a class on Christmas Eve morning, and he hated it. Despised it. Was grumpy for the rest of the day. He loves working out, but likes doing so on his own and doesn’t “like people screaming at him telling him what to do.” So, it is definitely not for everyone — but for those who do like to get pushed in a workout, sweat a lot, and listen to loud music, than this class is definitely for you.

Until next time!

— AYN, aka the Josie Girl.

Christmas with the Natoris

I cannot believe that Christmas is WAAAAAAYYYY over and it is almost 2012. Have to start thinking about my New Year’s Resolutions NOW! In the meantime, here are some photo highlights of our Christmas in NYC.

Tree

Check out this beauty of a Christmas Tree at my in-laws. So gorgeous and festive. And of course, elegant and exceptional.

We celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with Ken’s parents, family, and friends. The Natoris always decorate their place with such charm and uniqueness. And of course, as always, the food at their events is to-die-for.

Dinner Table

Christmas Eve Dinner Table.

Entry Way

The entry way of the apartment. Reminds me of Sweden.

Sparkle

Sparkle decorations were splattered throughout the apartment. Nothing better than some shine and glamour!

Close up of the dining room table.

Dinner was OUT OF THIS WORLD on Christmas Eve. The dinner was only 10 of us so it was an intimate and special gathering. We laughed and had a great time together.

First course: Lobster.

Oh man, the lobster was so delicious. If I could only have it NOW.

Entree

Second course: Black cod.

Christmas Day Dinner was a bigger event — more people, more food, more celebration.

Cruz

We dressed Cruzzie, our son, up for Christmas Day.

Santa

Santa came and visited us! Of course, the only way to get a picture of Cruzzie was for Santa to sit behind him....

Family pic

The real Josie, The Josie Girl, and King Cruz

Overall, Christmas was a blast. I always love having a reason to eat good food, celebrate and all be together as a family! Hope everyone had a terrific holiday.  We are in Oregon now with my parents so stay tuned for some posts from my hometown!

— AYN, aka The Josie Girl