Brayden’s 1st Birthday!

My favorite baby turned one last weekend.  Cue the tears.  I was so excited I got to travel to Tennessee to celebrate with him!

For Christmas, Chad and Megan gave me a round-trip plane ticket to visit them in Tennessee.  It just happened that we could not get schedules to line up in the months after Christmas: I just got a new job, they were moving into a new house, so we decided to hold onto it until Brayden’s birthday.  I hadn’t seen the little dude since October, so I was long overdue!  Of course, I would have loved to see them sooner, but I’m so glad I got to be there to celebrate such a huge milestone!

I took a 6:00am flight out of New York, as in the flight leaves at 6:00am, as in 3:30am wake up call… but I wanted to get there as early as possible to really enjoy the day and get all the time I could with them.  As I boarded the flight with a bachelorette party that was continuing on to Vegas, I was really questioning my decision.  But soon, the novelty of the Vegas flight wore off and everyone snoozed.  Thank goodness!  Choosing the 6:00am flight got me into Memphis at 7:49am which was awesome!  Once you realize that you have the whole day, that 3:30am wake up call seems totally worth it!  Walking out of the terminal and seeing Brayden smile and reach for me didn’t hurt either!  I was so worried that he wouldn’t remember me, that he would be afraid of this person who he hasn’t seen for almost a year, but that first smile and him wanting me to hold him was the best feeling!

Here’s me, post-flight and B, pre-nap.  It’s not pretty, but hey, what do you want from me?  I mentioned I “got ready” at 3:30am.

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Then, we played for a little bit.  Kid’s got toys for days!!

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My grandparents were also in town for the party, so we went to the new house, hung out for a minute, and then began the birthday preparations.  Megan did such a great job planning the details of his party, we just had some last minute things to grab and get ready before my parents arrived the next day.

Saturday was the par-tay and it was a huge success!  The kids had fun, the adults had fun, and Brayden loved his smash cake.  Here’s the party, in pictures:

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Not sure about that sugary-sweet cake.  Had to check with Mom.

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I think he liked it!

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Naked baby in the anywhere chair his Aunt T and Uncle B gave him.  Loved celebrating this birthday boy!

The Cronut

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I’m sure you’ve heard of the Cronut (half croissant / half doughnut) by now. They were first made here in NYC by Chef Dominque Ansel.  The process takes 3 days to make and they only produce 300 a day so by 10AM, they are sold out.  They have a different flavor every month. I had read about the Cronut craze in the middle of April in one of the daily NYC e-mails I get.  I wanted to check it out but I knew even with Tara’s love for breakfast, there was no way I was getting her up at 5:30AM to stand in line with me on a weekend.

So I waited for her birthday to grab us one as a surprise.  Boy was it worth it.  Here’s the lowdown.

Dominique Ansel Bakery is located in Soho.
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The line for Cronuts starts as early as 5:30AM.  That was a little too early for me so I got up and was in line by 6:00AM with 25 people ahead of me.  It turned out to be the perfect timing because by 6:30, the line was 150 people strong and starting to curve around the block.IMG_7446 - Copy

The bakery staff started coming out of the bakery around 7AM and continued every 15 minutes or so to make sure the line was against the park to make room for other pedestrians who were on their way to work and passing by on the sidewalk.
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By 7:30, one staff member came out and served fresh hot samples of one their other pastries to everybody in line.  I can’t remember exactly what the sample was, but it was SO good!  Tasted fresh and was a good preview of what was to come.
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At 8AM, the line started moving inside at a pretty good pace and the head chef, Dominique, greeted everyone at the door!  Talk about customer service!!
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By the time I got in the door, I noticed they had two lines.  One was the cronut line (where you could order other things as well) or there was a separate, much shorter line for ordering anything other than cronuts and you didn’t have to get in the big line that started around the block for that one!

I passed by the display window and saw some other amazing looking pastries…they all looked SOOO good!
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Confession time: I’m a sucker for almost any “fruit” type of food.  I ALSO ended up ordering the Blueberry Blackberry Pavlova.  What is it you ask?  Let me tell you.  It’s described as light-as-air blueberry meringues filled with ripe blackberries and smooth lemon vanilla cream (Gluten Free might I add).

But then, as I turned a corner, I saw Chef Dominique applying a blow torch type utensil to what appeared to be a marshmallow.  Come to find out, it’s one of his newest creations (after the cronut and just a seasonal summer treat), the FROZEN S’MORE!  Are you kidding me?!?!? What is that??!?!  It’s vanilla custard ice cream that’s wrapped with crispy chocolate wafer chips inside a marshmallow that has been blow torched around the sides and then put on top of an apple wood smoked branch!  So yes, that was ALSO ordered!
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By the time I got to the front, the cronuts were pre-boxed and ready for pick-up.  I even liked the quality bags they put your selections in (looked more like a high-end gift bag).  That said, the cronuts aren’t exactly cheap (what isn’t it NYC) at $5/ea so I ended up spending about $30 in breakfast treats along with an OJ and coffee.  Geez!
Side note: Apparently, on the black market (Craigslist), cronuts are going for as much as $40/ea!
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As you might expect, the cronut was DELICIOUS!  Definitely try and eat them right away.  If you wait too long, the freshness goes away. The flavor for the month  of July was blackberry.  It had a blackberry glaze with bits of pulverized berries mixed in and rolled with a mix of course sugar and lime zest.  They inject it with blackberry swirled vanilla cream!!
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I ended up taking the Blueberry Blackberry Pavolova home and saved it in the refrigerator for another day.  It tasted great when we finally devoured it a few days later.

Their lunch items looked phenomenal and the other pastries were so good that I’d definitely head back there again and pass on the cronut line (since I’ve already been there / done that) and try something else.  You can eat inside (though it’s a bit crowded) or they have a garden in the back that is more spacious.

Fast forward to a few weeks later and I had one of our FL DJs in town and he wanted to try the cronut.  I made him wait in line at 5:30AM and I joined him at 7AM to enjoy August’s new flavor…the Coconut Cronut (pictured at the top of this post).  On this visit, I didn’t order the Frozen S’more (my buddy did, however) but I did order and take home a box of 3 of the DKAs (Dominique’s Kouign Amann). It looks like a carmelized croissant shaped like a muffin.  They’re not cheap either at $5.25 each but they are soo good!  It’s got a good balance of the sweetness of the sugar and the creaminess of the butter. If you don’t want to wait in the cronut line, this is another EXCELLENT option!
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So I guess the question begs to be asked…is the cronut really worth the wait?  I think so (at least once)!  The people watching is fun (there are definitely some funny characters), you meet new friends and the experience makes the food that much more worth it!   That said, don’t settle for JUST the cronut.  The other options are just as good!  Highly recommend this spot!

Thirty One.

Tara’s birthday is one of my favorite times of the year.  It’s an opportunity where I get to celebrate her entirely.  Because birthdays are a big deal for her as well, it always extends for the entire week.  It also stretches me to be unique and creative with each one that I get to be a part of.  To read about last year’s birthday, click <<<here>>>.

Her actual birthday this year fell on a Tuesday (July 30th) which was good and bad. With it being in the middle of the work week, we had to wait till Friday to really do something BIG with friends. It did, however, give us an opportunity to do some small little things throughout the week.

This year I feel like we’ve hit a new stride personally as true NYC locals.  Last year, our first in NY, we hadn’t really developed any close friendships in the City so we ended up planning a big birthday bash with her FL friends and family.  Thanks in large part to the small group we started at our church, our “network” of close friends has grown quite considerably since the beginning of 2013.  This is how the birthday week unfolded.

Monday
It just so happened that it was the closing night of our small group season.  We had almost everybody at the group that night (which has grown from 12 to 20 people).

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Last year for Tara’s 30th, I had a cake made by the fabulous KaraBoo Bakery and we
included on the cake 30 things that defined Tara.
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Karaboo always hits it out of the park.  I was bummed that I couldn’t fly in a cake
from them.  In an interesting twist of fate, I ended up meeting a cake maker, Amy Noelle of Sugar Flower Cake Shop, on the Friday prior to Tara’s birthday week at a networking meeting in the City.  She is extremely talented, creative, uses local ingredients and does not use fondant on anything.  She was showing pictures of her work on her iPad and after I left the meeting, I e-mailed her to see if she could take on making my wife’s cake.  She accepted and we came up with a local NYC cake idea.  As I said earlier in this post, I feel like this year we’ve really settled into our NYC life.  We don’t feel we’re tourists anymore and we’ve embraced this City as our own.  So here’s the cake we had made to represent our “local” status in the Union Square area and I surprised Tara by bringing it out on that night to share with our group…our NYC friends.
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As for the cake ingredients/flavor, here’s the breakdown.  We decided on a Champagne Cake with chocolate buttercream filling and NYC Honey Icing.  Champagne cakes are all the rage this year plus that’s one of her favorite drinks!  The honey is sold in the Union Square farmer’s market (Andrew’s Honey).  Andrew has hives all around Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn and keeps the harvests separately.  The variety they are using right now is the Chelsea honey.  The chocolate was Valrhona dark chocolate.  Since chocolate doesn’t grow in the state of New York, she had to look outside and use one of the best quality French chocolates (which was great because Tara has a personal affinity for all things French!).  The champagne is a pink champagne which fit in with the purple and green color scheme.

Her gift that night was a mophie phone case/charger…a real game changer as a NY’er.  More on that in a future blog post.
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Tuesday
This was the actual birthday.  I got up at 5:30AM to wait in line at Dominique Ansel’s Bakery, the inventor of the Cronut (more on this in a future blog post as well).  I was able to score 2 cronuts when the bakery opened at 8AM and deliver them to the wife at work as my “surprise” gift that day.  The cronut had a blackberry glaze with bits of pulverized berries mixed in and it was rolled with a mix of coarse sugar and lime zest. It was filled with blackberry-swirled vanilla cream. Every month they change flavors.  It tastes every bit as good as it sounds!!
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I had some flowers delivered at work a few hours later.
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We went and ate at Pierre Loti, a wine and cheese bar in Union Square – one of Tara’s favorite things to do.  It was great to spend some time with her out on a date – just the two of us.  We tried a few different plates and shared a bottle of wine.
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Wednesday
We had dinner scheduled with some friends of ours from a few weeks ago, so before we went, I gave her a card with 2 plane tickets to the Dominican Republic.  We have not taken a vacation at all this year.  So this will be a great break for us in the Fall (even if it is just for a weekend) before my travel/gig season gets crazy and hopefully we can come back with some good looking tans for the winter!
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Thursday
Finally a night at the house just to chill and catch up on some DVR shows.  But to make the night a little special, I had ordered some ZD wine (T’s favorite) to be shipped in from Napa and it came in that day so we enjoyed a bottle with dinner.
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Friday
I had a DJ gig on Saturday so this was our night to live it up!  We went out with our good friends, Cameron and Leslee, to Beauty and Essex on the lower East Side.  I will do a separate blog post on that location later on but let me just say, this place blew our mind!  From the outside, you wouldn’t have any idea what the vibe is like.  You actually walk THROUGH a pawn shop (the front door) and it opens up to this massive 3 story space.  It’s very trendy.

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They are known for their FREE “champagne bar” that is INSIDE the ladies restroom and you better believe that Tara and Leslee took FULL advantage of that.  Did I mention that it was FREE?
*NOTE: The men’s restroom, was not at all furnished with that type of amenity.
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The food at B&E is very tapas style.  We hung out there, shared some amazing food, drank some quality wine and had great conversation.

Afterwards, we went out to a hole-in-the-wall bar called Nurse Bettie for a night cap and then finished eating tacos out of a taco truck called Tacos Morelos (Cameron and Leslee’s first DATE night spot in the NYC -TRUE story and yes, this is one of the many reasons why we love them)!
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Great way to cap off 31 in the City!
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