Restaurant Review: Please Don’t Tell (PDT)

Okay so despite the title, this is a bar review, straight up. I did happen to eat there, but this is a bar first, restaurant second. Actually, they’re not even a restaurant at all – they get their food from the restaurant next door, but more on that later.

I can’t even remember when I first heard of Please Don’t Tell, but it has been on my radar for years (probably since we moved here), and I’m just now getting around to checking it off my list! What intrigued me was that it’s a speakeasy that is located INSIDE a hot dog restaurant. I cannot make this up. The fact that there is a restaurant solely for hot dogs is a dream in itself, but add a secret bar and I’m down.

Crif Dogs

So you walk into Crif Dogs (113 St Marks Place) and step inside the telephone booth that’s tucked behind the wall on the left. You pick up the phone, tell them how many people are in your party and when they’re ready for you, they open the door and you are suddenly in a bar that’s inside a hot dog joint. (Try to call ahead for a rezzi or get there right when they open or else you will stand in a line out the door and around the corner – you’ve been warned).

If you have a smaller party (2-3 people), sit at the bar to experience the crafting of these cocktails. The mixologists are masters and use so many different techniques – they’re definitely not just slinging bottles. I’ve gotten something different every time I’ve gone and sampled all of my friends drinks (the best part!).

PDT Cocktails

Now, not only do they have the most bomb cocktail concoctions, they also let you place an order for gourmet hot dogs and sides from Crif Dogs. These dogs are gooooooood. I recommend the 2Pok Dog (deep-fried dog with Pok Pok wing glaze, crispy garlic, roasted chile mayo, pickled daikon & carrot, lettuce, cucumber, cilantro. The banh mi of hot dogs). Delish!

2pok dog

And please, promise me you won’t forget the tater tots (with cheese and jalapenos).

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I wouldn’t make it an every night thing, but it’s a fun experience and a great place to take visitors!

PDT girls

 

Year In Review: Best/Worst Of 2014

Overall, 2014 was a fantastic year! A year never goes by without a few hiccups but as a whole, this was a great one. We had mentioned last year that blogging would be a priority and it was…however, it ended up being a business priority more so than a personal one.   As you will see below, one of the biggest “wins” in 2014 was putting in a concerted effort into the business! It paid off in spades. When you think of how much time is wasted on social media (and I actually did a self-test to prove it), it became clear that I needed to rid myself of as many “time suckers” as possible. Don’t get me wrong, our blog was never a waste of time but if something had to suffer, this was going to be one of the casualties. Hopefully, 2015 gives me a chance to get back in the personal blogging game as New York City is too good NOT to share.

That said, this is our annual “best/worst blog post” for 2014 (mainly best). Per the usual, this just pertains to the current year, not necessarily, our all-time picks. My picks will be noted by my initials and Tara’s picks will be noted by her initials.

2014

Best Music Album in 2014
BB:Ghost Stories by Coldplay: I love it when an artist or band gives each song on an album its own feel. That’s just what happened on Coldplay’s latest album. Although it definitely had a more melancholy, downtempo electronic feel, this album is one of my favorites of theirs. I had it on repeat a ton and used a few of the tracks at gigs often.

TB:1989by Taylor Swift: I love T. Swift. There, I said it. I think everyone secretly jams out to Taylor Swift. If you don’t, I’m pretty sure you’re lying. Her songs are just so damn catchy. You know it. I know it. And this album is fantastic.

Best Music Single of 2014
BB:Rather Beby Clean Bandit feat. Jess Glynne: This song was definitely not the most popular (it didn’t make my company’s top 10) but I just loved the indie/ 80s/ pop sound of this song. I worked it into almost all of my event sets. It has a sing-a-long quality to it and is at a great tempo.

TB:Don’t Tell ‘Emby Jeremih feat. YG: Maybe it’s that crazy night in Tennessee I had with my sister, but I love this jam. I was trying to think of other songs that I loved in 2014, but kept coming back to this one. It’s fun to sing to – try it. You know you like it, too.

Best Book I Read in 2014
BB: Defending Jacob by William Landay: I read a ton of great books this year but I think this one inched it out for being my favorite. I love court room storylines and plot twists and this had tons of it. Looking for a book that is tough to put down? This would definitely qualify.

TB: Divergent Series by Veronica Roth: I finally finished the Divergent Series this year. What can I say, I love YA fiction… And I’m in need of some new suggestions, so send them my way!!

Best Travel Destination of 2014
Live Aqua Cancun
BB: “Live Aqua – Cancun” / March AND October 2014
It was another year where Tara and I didn’t get a chance to travel much for pleasure. However, I did travel a ton for work. The spot that was #1 for me was Live Aqua in Cancun, Mexico. I actually did a corporate event there in March. I loved it so much that I HAD to bring Tara there for our annual anniversary trip/vacation. The resort is amazing. Great views, amazing amenities (did I mention the daily cabanas and daily 20 minute foot massages) and just a great place to unwind. I could definitely see myself going back again. Highly recommend this for an adult-only getaway!

Live Aqua Cancun
TB: “Live Aqua – Cancun” / October 2014
Completely agree with Brian – this resort was so great. The beach and pools were amazing. The cabanas were definitely my favorite part. A canopy bed on the beach? Are you kidding me? And add to that a 20 minute foot massage. I was in heaven. The resort itself was also so sweet in acknowledging our anniversary with nightly champagne, chocolate and strawberries. And I’m not talking Andre champagne (no offense, Andre lovers), but this was Moet. Nice touch, Live Aqua. Definitely a great getaway for us!

Best Breakfast Restaurant in 2014
BB: The Breakfast Table” –Destin, FL: I know this may sound like a weird pick considering all the places we have available in New York City but this place just resonated with me. It’s a place by locals for locals. With so much time spent in Destin and seeing so many places open and close often there, it was great seeing this one succeed! The owner, Bridgette, is so welcoming to all her guests. The food is pretty good (some of the best coffee around) and they are constantly tweaking the place to make it better every time I come in.

TB: Root & Bone – New York, NY: Our first time to Root & Bone was for brunch and totally blew our mind! We tried practically everything, including cocktails, and our bill was low by NYC standards. Peach Caprese salad, killer bloody Marys, and delicious mini waffles. But that fried chicken, though. Out of this world good.   Brined in sweet tea for 24 hours then spritzed with lemon juice and sprinkled with fresh dill. It just doesn’t get better.
Root & Bone NYC

Best Lunch Restaurant in 2014
BB/TB:Sweetgreen’” – New York, NY: A buddy of Brian’s suggested this place when he found out we lived so close to it. Upon first glance you may think this is another “Chop’t” type places. You would be wrong. This place can make a salad unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It is so filling and made with such fresh ingredients that it puts all the other salad places to shame. This is almost a monthly staple for us on the weekends.

Best Dinner Restaurant in 2014
BB: “Root & Bone” –New York, NY: Weird introduction to this spot – I actually was given this restaurant name by Lori Saczynski, a friend of mine from Florida. Who would’ve thought a Floridian would find my top dinner spot in NYC? The head chef is actually from the Florida panhandle and came to New York via Miami. Tara and I actually went there for brunch first and that in itself was good. But then we came back for dinner 2 times within the first couple weeks and it was hands down my favorite. Not only was it affordable, but the friend chicken was to die for! I had to force myself not to go because my waistline would have seriously expanded.

TB:Beauty & Essex” – New York, NY: B&E wins again this year! I didn’t want to pick a restaurant that I had chosen previously, but I think I went here 3 times this year. In a city with literally thousands of fantastic restaurants, that’s a pretty decent attendance record. I cannot get enough of those grilled cheese and tomato soup dumplings!!

Best TV Show in 2014
BB:The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” – NBC: Late Night With Jimmy Fallon had been my #1 show the last two years. I realize I’m not going to get any of the credit, but obviously NBC saw what I was seeing and made Jimmy the new host of the Tonight Show. So that has now taken over as my #1 show. I think he does such a great job interviewing folks and his comedy bits immediately start trending within hours of the show.

TB: “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” – NBC: I’m going to agree with Brian on this one. We loved Jimmy way back when and I love to see him doing so well with the Tonight Show!

Best Movie in 2014
BB: Beyond The Brick: A Lego Documentary – This was another year where I didn’t get a chance to get out to the movies much. One movie that made a huge impression on me was Beyond The Brick. Two of our really good friends, Ashley and Tony, got Tara and I tickets to the premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. Tony was actually one of the producers of the movie. I was so proud of him for being a part of this project and the movie was quite good!

TB:Gone Girl: I read the book and by the end I was so frustrated with the story; great book, really weird, disappointing ending. The movie stayed true to the book; however, the roles were so perfectly cast that I couldn’t get enough of the main characters and didn’t mind the ending so much. Ben Affleck is just smug enough that you hate him, but just boy-next-door enough to love him.   And Rosamund Pike played creepy so beautifully that between the two of them, the ending made more sense – if that makes sense. Great book. Great movie.

Best Blog in 2014
BB: Carey Nieuwhof Blog: While I haven’t worked at a church in a few years, I loved the content of this blog and picked up a ton of leadership nuggets that I was able to apply to my own small business. Carey is based in Canada but has a fantastic writing style. If you are leading in any capacity, this is a great blog to keep in your favorites.

TB: Cup of Jo: This is an oldie, but a goodie. I still come back to this blog after first reading it years ago. So much good info on New York living and just life, in general.

Best Gig in 2014
Josh Segarra/Brace Rice Wedding – Carillon Beach, FL (10/17/14):  What an awesome event this was! Josh and Brace actually live in NYC and just happened to be getting married in the Panhandle. What are the odds? Anyway, we met for drinks to talk through their event and to make sure we were a match and I could instantly tell they had amazing energy. The night of the event, the crowd was dancing during cocktail hour (always a good sign). It just continued throughout the rest of the evening and was a non-stop party!
Carillon Beach Wedding

Runner Up: Joseph Stein/Brittney Bowman Wedding – Fort Walton Beach, FL (10/18/14): What are the chances that my top two events would be one day a part? Well, that’s just what happened. Brittney and I have known each other casually for a few years. She’s always been into music and it helps that she’s a great dancer! Their venue was super intimate but it made the dancing that much better. It didn’t take long before our dance floor was packed and everyone was partying away!   It was such a fun reception and Joseph couldn’t have been a nice guy! Brittney looked stunning as usual and I felt blessed to be a part of their day! Thanks for having me!
Wedding DJ

Best Experience in 2014
BB: New York City Half Marathon – Why I decided to do this, I really don’t know. I always need fitness challenges to keep myself in shape so maybe that’s why I put my name in the half marathon lottery. I got picked and had an “uh oh” moment. The winter was unbearably cold and long which made training outside extremely difficult.   Luckily, our building has a gym so I spent many a day inside training on the treadmill. I never felt totally prepared so when the alarm went off the morning of the event, a brief thought entered my mind that I shouldn’t do it. But I’m too cheap (it was $150 to run it) so I went out and ran it in the bitter cold. I’m so glad I did. This was by far the best course I’ve ever ran. It’s hard to even describe. Running through Times Square was incredible. The crowd support was the best I’ve ever seen at a race. I loved it so much that I decided to run it again in 2015 – this time for charity, so I could be assured a spot.
NYC Half Marathon

TB: New York City – Gosh, I seriously have so many this year! I mean, how do you top Christmas windows in NYC? Oh, with a ticket to an intimate Justin Timberlake concert! Or a helicopter ride around the city! Or cruising the Hudson up to Cold Spring, NY. Or a new Christmas puppy! Any of those could easily be my best experience. I loved Brian celebrating my birthday in a way only he can – complete with a helicopter tour around our city, which was beautiful, a little scary, and altogether surreal. Ending the birthday celebration with a concert for the record books. My 15 year-old (see also: 32 year-old) dream come true. The best Justin Timberlake show I think I’ve ever witnessed. Then my year was capped off with my little morkie, Jake – the sweetest Christmas surprise ever. It’s been a seriously good year!
New York City

Toughest Experience in 2014
BB/TB: Finding our place spiritually: If you know me (Brian) at all, you know how much I love being involved in the local church. My work/travel schedule made it virtually impossible to be involved on a Sunday outside of an online experience. While that certainly helped fill some gaps, it definitely was not a long-term solution. Towards the Fall season, Tara and I hit the re-set button. We are “lifers” when it comes to church life. The signs were becoming clear, however, that a change needed to happen so after conferring with some wise counsel and talking with our pastor, we decided to leave our current church home and look for a place with a spiritual DNA a little more similar to ours where we could be involved in a capacity outside of just a Sunday morning. We still are in the midst of figuring out what God wants for us in that regard so your prayers are definitely welcome.

Biggest Accomplishment of 2014
BB: Business Changes: This was the year where I felt like I hit my stride with my business. I put a ton of effort into growing the mobile DJ Company. A lot of things contributed to this but high up on the list was a DJ Owner’s workshop I attended in Raleigh, NC. It wasn’t cheap but I knew this was a much needed step if I really wanted to take the business to a new level. This led to a ton of changes and upgrades in strategy that I was able to implement immediately. The end result was that we had the best year since the company started. A plethora of reviews, high revenue numbers, amazing new staff and new opportunities came to fruition and as we kick into 2015, phase 2 is about to start! So pumped!

TB: Work Accomplishments: I became a manager of sorts when my company offered to bring on an assistant for me this year.   It was nice to see them acknowledge the work I was handling and saying “let’s make this easier for you”. I found a great gal fresh out of Notre Dame (football season was fun! 🙂 ) and she has been a phenomenal help to me. Also, going through bonus/raise season again this year was a huge win for me. I constantly prayed “make my number their number so I don’t even have to negotiate.” And that’s exactly what happened! Again, being acknowledged for the good work you are doing, whether through hiring extra help, or monetarily, makes such a difference in the appreciation of your position.

In conclusion, 2014 was a year where we delved deeper into becoming NYC Locals. We absolutely love living here and though there is no timetable of how long we intend to stay, we find ourselves continually thanking God for the opportunity to be here and look forward to what happens in 2015!
Brian and Tara 2014

Year In Review: Best/Worst Of 2013

Year in Review 2013

It’s “year in review” time.  Last year at this exact same time we said our goals for 2013 were to scale things back so we could bring down the stress level, blog more frequently, and try to really immerse ourselves in NYC life as locals – we managed to hit two out of three with those goals.  The “blogging more frequently” proved to be a bit of a challenge. Tara and I are both perfectionists so if the blog post isn’t perfect we just don’t post it.  This coming year (2014) the goal will be to double the blogs posting from 2012 and 2013 combined.  Hold us accountable people!

This is our annual “best/worst blog post” for 2013.  Again, this just pertains to the current year, not necessarily, our all- time picks.  So I’ll list mine on this post as it relates to me and my interests and Tara’s picks will be noted by her initials.

Best Music Album of 2013
BB: “Random Access Memories” by Daft Punk: I absolutely loved this entire album.  It definitely had a throwback feel to it.  I just felt like this album brought more of that mid tempo dance feel back to radio and it was sorely needed.  The guest appearances by Pharell, Nile Rodgers, etc. fit great.

TB: “20/20 Experience” by Justin Timberlake: Duh.  I mean, were there any other albums released this year? I think this was the only one.


Best Music Single of 2013
BB: “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke:  I played this song as soon as it hit in April and just knew it would be a hit.  It is still a dance floor filler 8 months later.    That is a sign of a good song!  Every age group loves to dance to it.  Thank God for some great remixes that makes it playable still all these months later.

TB: “Mirrors” by Justin Timberlake:  Again, duh.


Best Book Read in 2013
BB & TB: “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas: Tara and I led 4 semesters worth of marriage groups at our church in New York this past year.  By far, this was the best book we’ve ever read. It’s got a different spin on marriage than what you typically hear and it is invaluable no matter what season you are in. I’d definitely recommend this to any engaged couple as well as marriage couple.


Best Travel Destination of 2013

BB: “The Hamptons” / September 2013
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Tara and I didn’t get a chance to travel together much in 2013 due to her day job and my insane gig schedule.  However, I got a chance to DJ in Montauk in September and Tara was able to come towards the end of the gig.  Though I was only there for not even 2 days, it was still pretty amazing.  The drive from the City was awesome that time of year.  All the “Fall” colors were in full effect but you still had some lasting “Summer” weather.  I had the beach chair out and was getting a little “Fall tanning” in before the gig.  We definitely will go back next year and make a weekend out of it.

TB: Southampton: July 2013
 The Hamptons really are all they’re cracked up to be.  See my blog post on that trip <<HERE>>.

Best Breakfast Restaurant in 2013
BB & TB: “Freeman’s” – New York, NY: We stumbled on to this place on my birthday this past year.  I wanted to check out something different and we went to this place and it’s been our top brunch spot all year.  The skillet dish is the “go to” and is only available during weekend brunch.  The artichoke dip is a MUST no matter the time of day!! Décor is off the chain as well.  Best breakfast find of 2013!

Runner Up: “Swami’s Cafe” – Encinitas, CA:  One of my CA clients suggested we meet there for a breakfast meeting.  I didn’t have high hopes but this place blew me away.  In typical CA style, all the seating was outside.  The food was amazing (tons of avocado options) and it just feels like a “locals only” type of place.  Highly recommend!

Honorable Mention: “Dominique Ansel Bakery” – New York, NY: This isn’t really a complete breakfast spot but this place is amazing.  Known for being the place where you can find the original cronuts, that isn’t all they serve.  They have a ton of seasonal dishes and some standard things as well.  Here’s a blog post I wrote about the spot <<CLICK HERE>>.

Best Lunch Restaurant in 2013
BB: “Cafeteria’” – New York, NY: I recently got a chance to check this place out and it IS all it’s cracked up to be.  Lunch time wasn’t packed at all.  Best dishes…Mac N Cheese and the Original Burger.  One of the best burgers I’ve ever had. I’ll do a review on this place soon.

TB: “Dig Inn” – New York, NY:  Since getting my job in Midtown, this is my go-to lunch spot.  They also have additional locations around NYC.  Great, seasonal, home-cooked foods that are at an awesome price.  A grain or salad, protein, and 3 veggie sides for $10!  (My fave: the Spicy Meatballs and Lentil and Edamame Salad)

Runner Up:  “Kori Tribeca“ – New York, NY: I went here for a lunch meeting and have continued to go back time and time again.  The Skillet dishes are the best.  There is never a wait…even at dinner.  It’s a little off the beaten path but so worth it!

Honorable Mention: “Tommy Lasagna” – New York, NY:  This Italian spot has an incredible lunch special. $10 for any pasta dish, salad and a drink.  Hard to beat it!
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Best Dinner Restaurant in 2013
BB: “Juliette Kitchen + Bar” – Newport Beach, CA: Leave it to some of my good CA friends who have excellent taste in food to introduce me to this spot.  Hands down, my favorite spot this year.  I took Tara later in the year and then I went again with some of my Florida visiting friends.  Tapas style and super good!!  Get the pork cheeks.
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TB:  “Beauty & Essex” – New York, NY:  Two words: Free Champagne.  Besides that, this place has great tapas-style food, glamorous décor, fun atmosphere, and did I mention free champagne?  So enjoy the seasonal tapas (if there are grilled cheese and tomato soup dumplings on the menu, please for the love of God, get those and thank me later), and then head downstairs to the ladies restroom (sorry, fellas).  They have a lounge area where you can relax on the sofa and chat with the girls over a glass (or two!) of champagne.
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Best TV Show in 2013
BB: “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” – NBC:  This was my #1 show last year and continues to be.  We DVR it nightly and love his different games and skits he throws in there. He also has such a genuine/authentic spirit when interviewing people.  I love that about him.

TB:  “Scandal” – ABC: We stumbled on to this show and are still a season behind the current one.  We watched the first season in a “marathon week” and are hooked!  Great writing, acting and witty humor.


Best Movie in 2013
Promised Land: We didn’t get a chance to see many movies this year but it ended up not being a big blockbuster year anyway.  I always love movies that have a realistic twist to it and this one was definitely one of them.  Matt Damon was phenomenal in it.  See my review <<HERE>>.

TB: Hunger Games: Catching Fire:  Again, we didn’t see a whole lot of movies, but I still think this would have been up there in the ranking, for me.  I loved the book series and the first film, so this second installment, of course, I loved.


Best Blog in 2013
BB: Miller Mobley Blog: I found myself checking this blog quite regularly.  Miller and his wife, Jana, were in our small group at Liberty Church.  He won’t admit it but he’s one of the more famous photogs in the US!  His story reminds me of myself a bit with the struggle and determination of making it in NYC.  It’s inspiring to me as I’m not quite there yet.  His work is incredible.  Check it out!

TB: Little Green Notebook: It may just be because we just moved, but I’ve been reading this a lot lately.  It has a lot of beautiful design inspiration as well as a ton of DIY décor ideas.

Best Gig of 2013
Sam Quigley/Erin Swain Wedding – Palm Springs, CA (11/16/13):   Out of any year, this was the toughest category to pick winners for.  I DJ’d more events this year (primarily weddings) than ever before and I had a ton of great parties.  Two years ago, I DJ’d an event in Palm Springs for one of this bride/groom’s friends (one of about 7 I’ve done for this group of friends) and that one ended up being in my top 2 as well.  There is just something about this group and Palm Springs.  This event took the top honors because everything just lined up perfectly.  The weather was insanely good, the décor was extraordinary, the crowd was unbelievable and the bride/groom added some unique touches to it.  This group needed no prompting to dance.  It was “on” from the moment I hit the decks and literally no one left the dance floor (or so it seemed) for 6 straight hours!!  Though their official video wedding isn’t done yet, here’s a sneakpeak!

Runner Up: David Walker/Courtney Brennan Wedding – Alys Beach, FL (4/20/13): I usually never get nervous DJ’ing.  It’s like second hat to me.  However, I was extremely nervous at this one.  The bride and groom, who live in NYC and are both pretty hilarious, had seen so many bad wedding DJs that they actually had me doubting myself before I even got to the event.  Two songs into the cocktail hour, their crowd was dancing and I knew this was going to be a good event!  This one also stood out to me because of how chic the bride and groom looked!  The bride was stunning beautiful and did a fashion throwback to the 1920’s.  Such a cool event!  Check out their highlight reel!


Best Experience of 2013
BB: Liberty Church Community Group Season(s):  This past year Tara and I had the privilege of leading a married couple’s small group through our church.  We finally feel like we found our place in the church through this.  With my crazy gig schedule this year, I wasn’t able to serve much on the weekends but this group gave me the creative outlet I’ve been looking for and Tara (a total extrovert) a place to feel like we were not only giving of our time and talents and but actually building strong relationships that we know will continue beyond our time in NYC in addition to growing healthy marriages.
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TB: New Job/Feb 2013:  The end of 2012 and beginning of 2013 was by far our toughest period we’ve ever gone through both business-wise and personally as a married couple.  We had gone down a path that ultimately ended with us being behind on our rent (among other things) and questioning whether we should continue in NYC.  After praying through it, we felt this is exactly where we were supposed to be and ended up adjusting our game plan a bit which entailed Tara looking and getting a full-time job in the City.  God’s hands were all over this and not only did she get one quickly, she’s in a role where she is thriving. God has continually blessed her (and us) through this job.  We couldn’t be more thankful as it has allowed us to be more localized in the City as well as give us some financial breathing room while I continue to build my own company in the City.


Toughest Experience in 2013
BB: Family Issues: Since it’s a public blog, I don’t want to get too detailed here for privacy sake but let’s just say both of our families went through a ton this year.  Fortunately, Tara and I didn’t have any hiccups individually or together in that regard.  We feel blessed that God has us right where he wants us to support our families however we can.  We hope 2014 brings many blessings to them as well!

TB: Interviewing In NYC: I was so lucky to have a relatively quick interview process that did not drag on for weeks and weeks, but interviewing in New York City proved to be
extremely tough.  Explaining why I wanted to work for someone else after owning our own business is hard for people to understand and I had a few interviewers who were not very good at hiding their confusion and annoyance. Some people were just rude, and some I knew would not be a good fit for me, personality-wise.  I definitely walked out of one interview and told my recruiter not to ever send me back to that place or any place that had mean people like that.  I desperately did not want to be miserable in my job.  I was leaving a job I loved and the opportunity to work and travel with my husband.  If I was going to give that up, it better be worth it.  And then there’s the pantyhose and pulled back hair; neither one I’m fond of.  All in all, I ended up exactly where I needed to be and got there relatively quickly, but while I was in thick of interviewing, it was a pretty tough experience.


Biggest Accomplishment of 2013
BB: Moving / December 2013: There is nothing quite like moving in NYC.  Seriously, nothing compares to it.  You earn your stripes with the initial move but with this being our 2nd move in 3 years, we felt like seasoned veterans on how to go about it.  We made a list of the things we wanted and did our due diligence.  We found what we believe to be the perfect spot for us and while we are still retro-fitting things for the new place, we are so grateful that it went as smooth as it did.  No broker fee, no long drawn out approval process, and we’re still relatively close to the same neighborhood we came from with big windows, a view, and a nicer overall building.
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TB: I have two: Disney Half Marathon: Crossing that finish line was one of the greatest feelings!  I’ve never been one to run.  Anywhere.  I hated it.  Even running a mile seemed out of my reach.  But we got a training plan, buckled down and did it.  And after it was over, I did feel insanely proud of myself.
Marathon

Raise/Bonus Season:  End of year bonus and raise season was something completely new to me.  First of all, there was nothing corporate about any of my jobs in Destin, FL.  Also, most of my earning years have been in a down economy.  Raises and bonuses were like Bigfoot.  People sometimes talked about them, but you really kinda questioned their existence.  But this year, I went through a legitimate raise/bonus season where I had to do my research and negotiate my raise and bonus – with the owner of the fund.  This guy manages a quadrillion, sprillion dollars  It was extremely intimidating but I was really proud of myself for asking for what I thought was fair and not taking the first thing that was offered.

Runner Up: NYC Bucket List: We were able to cross off a ton on the list.  From Movies In The Park to Shakespeare In The Park, Manhattanhenge, to The Met, MOMA, Weekends in The Hamptons, the Nutcracker, Radio City Christmas Spectacular, to walking the Brooklyn Bridge, we really got a chance to explore this amazing City!  SNL and Jimmy Fallon are 2 of the biggies we hope to cross off in 2014.  Tara and I have truly embraced and are thankful for these NYC experiences we are able to have.  You never know how long your time is here so we’re trying to take in as many things as we can!

In conclusion, 2013 was a year of becoming localized in NYC!  We feel like this is just the beginning of our time here and we’ve set the ground work for some amazing breakthrough in 2014.  We’re thankful for our friends and family and hope to have you live 2014 with us vicariously through our blog next year.  Happy New Year every one!!

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!

Restaurant Review: Cafe Habana

cafe-habanaI’m obsessed with the NYC Food App Immaculate Infatuation.  The writing is the most hilarious and wittiest food review stuff I’ve ever read.  I’m really open to any cuisine but Cuban is one of my favorites (my amazing wife actually makes a few “off the hook” Cuban dishes).  So I was looking for cheap, Cuban spots and ran across Cafe Habana.  I mentioned it one evening to our friends, Cameron and Leslie, and we made a plan to go check it out soon.  Next thing I know, I get this text a few days later from Cameron.
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I couldn’t be upset with them at all…I would have done the same if I was in town instead of traveling all the time. Here’s a close up of that food pic that he sent me.
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Needless to say, this was definitely on our “hit list”. Tara’s friend, Brady, who just moved here on Sunday for a few months, wanted to do lunch with us and when we were throwing around lunch locations, I suggested we try this place.  Located in Soho, we went at 12:15PM and we got seated as soon as we walked in (impressive considering we had heard the wait is typically 30-45 minutes).  Seating is a bit tight so not ideal if going with a large group.  The first question out of the hostesses’ mouth was, “Are you here for just corn or lunch”?  You know when they ask that, that the corn has to be pretty good.   I had read rave reviews about the corn so I had to give it a try as I don’t believe I’ve ever had grilled corn before.
cornEnter one of the most amazing pieces of corn I’ve ever had.  I have no idea what the corn is breaded with but holy cow is it amazing.  They serve 2 pieces per order so with three of us, we ended up getting 2 orders and I had an order all for myself (no complaints there). It was succulent and the seasoning had a slight kick to it.  A++++.

 

Brady got the Corn salad as her entrée (sorry no pic).

Tara got the Cuban sandwich with fries. $9 dish.Cuban sandwichI went with the steak sandwich and salad.  I must say, there was ton of STEAK!  Usually, steak sandwiches fall woefully short of my expectations.  Not only was there a ton of it, the flavor was amazing.  I don’t know what sauce they used but it was incredible…not too much, but just enough to give it even more flavor!  The salad was quality and complimented the main course really well!  All this for $9.
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We also ordered some plantains.  Just as good as the entrée.
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All of us LOVED our dishes.  The portions are pretty large…so much so, that we took half our meal home with us for leftovers.  It heated up well and was just as good a few hours later as it was eating it in the restaurant.  This place is phenomenal and we will definitely be back.  They also have a location in Brooklyn.  Highly, highly recommend!!

Restaurant Review: Rosa Mexicano (USQ – 18th/between 5th and Broadway)

It could be that this post is being written because I just finished a Jamba Juice for dinner and I’m still STARVING (can you tell the wife is out-of-town?) or it could that be I want to hook you up with a quality restaurant to check out.  So how did I find this spot?

Insert another friend of mine, Sebastian (Seb) Buffa.

He happens to be the Union Square (USQ) campus pastor for Liberty.  He’s an Aussie who, despite what the picture looks like, is a smiling, pretty hilarious, down to earth dude (follow him on twitter..his tweets are pretty good).  So when he asked if I’d been to Rosa Mexicano and I told him I hadn’t, he put his hand on my shoulder, stopping me dead in my tracks, and said, “Mate, we must go and you have to order the guacamole.  It will change your life.”

Pretty bold statement.  Being from California where Mexican food is as good as it gets (short of having it in Mexico), I thought that he was just mis-informed.  All I kept thinking was that this guy had no clue what TRUE quality Mexican food is.

Then the lunch appointment occurred where Seb suggested we go there.  It’s a fairly visible restaurant from the street.  The flag makes it pretty obvious when you’ve arrived.

What makes this restaurant really stand out against most others is the spaciousness inside.  NY establishments like to squeeze as many people in as they possibly can (whether it’s over the listed Fire Marshall capacity limit or not).  Not here…plenty of room.  In the middle of the room, there’s some cool decor.  They have a wall divider between two rooms that has some type of diver figures attached to sections of it with water running down those sections and a ton of multi colored LED lights changing the feel and look of it every few minutes.

As soon as we sat down, the guacamole was ordered.  The server rolls a cart to your table and it is made to order (you pick the level of spice hotness).  It’s served in an old school clay-looking pot.  They include 2 other small types of salsa…a mild verde one and a hot red oaxacan salsa as well as flour tortillas so you can eat it more like a taco.  I’m not going lie…coming from Cali where they serve guacamole like this in mass quantities, $14 seemed a bit much for this appetizer. But the size of the bowl along with house-made accoutrements and table service made it feel like you weren’t totally getting taken advantage of.

On to the entree..I went with the Carne Asada tacos (skillet style).  I wasn’t too sure what “skillet style” meant but when it came to the table, I got it.

The meat is served in a miniature skillet with melted chihuahua cheese at its base.  The flavor of the meat was unbelievably good!  All the other taco items are served in separate small dishes.  You build the taco of your liking.  Along with the meat and cheese, you can mix up each taco with choices of vegetables, salsas, house rice, refried beans, red bean-chorizo chili, creamy corn esquites, and fresh tortillas. With some of the leftover guacamole, oaxacan salsa, and salsa verde, the different taco combinations you can go with are endless. Price tag on this bad boy was…$23.50.

They had some pretty good-looking desserts but I did not indulge.  It was lunch, after all.  I left feeling completely content.  I must give it up to Seb.  He came through with a good spot.  Come to find out, this restaurant has expanded to a few different states.  Definitely put it on your list of upscale mexican places to check out!

Coffeehouse Review – Stumptown Coffee Roasters

I love Sunday mornings in New York.  None of the tourists are out shopping yet; the locals haven’t gotten out of bed.  It’s just you and the few crazy avid runners who think that 27 degrees is warm enough for shorts.  Meanwhile, under eight layers of clothing, I was sure I would cave and have to take the subway one stop uptown.  One stop!  But, I’m no sissy.  I soldiered on.

This particular Sunday, I went to check out another church on 23rd St. called Forefront Church.  Afterwards, I had to pick up a few more Christmas presents.  One, for a coffee drinker on my list – I can only say that because I know Granddaddy isn’t reading the blog until I show it to him… after Christmas.

On a recommendation from Brian, I decided to try Stumptown Coffee Roasters at 18 W. 29th St.

Originally based out of Portland, this is their only cafe in New York.  They must be doing alright because the line was out the door and spilling into the lobby of an adjoining hotel.

I bought two different types of coffee, the Holler Mountain and the Hair Bender; mostly because I liked the names, but also because they smell AMAZING!!  The Holler Mountain is a syrupy, heavy bodied coffee with dark toned notes of blackberry, hazelnut and toffee.  The Hair Bender is comprised of coffees from every major producing region and provides the individual components of this complex sweet and savory blend which yields flavors of milk chocolate, caramel, jasmine, meyer lemon, apricot and pineapple.  It’s also Stumptown’s most popular blend.  Yum!

And since this wouldn’t be a review if I didn’t try anything, they give you a free small cup of coffee when you buy the beans!  Because I bought two bags, they sweetened the deal and sprung for a free medium cup of coffee.  If anyone knows about Brian’s love affair with Kean Coffee in California, then you must know that I have found it’s New York twin sister!  This coffee was gooooood.  Real, real good.  Like you could drink it black, kind of good.  They also do the really cool designs in the foam of the lattes.

I love that.

So, if you’re in the area and you want a really great cup of coffee, skip the Starbucks and go to Stumptown!  Seriously, do it.  They’ll make you a heart in your latte.  Or a leaf.  Or something else pretty.  Starbucks doesn’t do that.

– Tara

Restaurant Review! – The Spotted Pig

Our first (of many!) restaurant reviews.  This particular place was recommended to us by some locals when we came out in August but we just didn’t have a chance to check it out until now.  It’s located at 314 W. 11th Street…which is a good 15 minute walk from our pad.

One of the few negatives is they DON’T take reservations.  Lucky for us, we got there around 6:30PM and were seated right away.  As we were finishing dinner, however, the place was packed and there was a line out the door (and this was on a Wednesday night!).

The place is relatively tiny on the first floor.  They also have an upstairs (which we didn’t get a chance to view).  As with most NY restaurants, “table for 2” means you get sat relatively quick but you’ll be at a small table, literally 12 inches away from the tables next to you.  So you’ve got to talk loud and inevitably you’ll hear a little of everyone else’s conversation.

The beer selection is decent.  I had a Pale Ale (closest thing they had to a wheat beer) and I can’t remember what type of beer Tara had but it was way better than mine (of course).

(This is Tara – It was a lager brewed in Brooklyn called Six Point.  Very tasty.  A little sweet smelling but then a hoppy taste – delicious!  Gotta try the local flavor, you know?)

The menu is one page and reprinted daily with the chef choices for that day.  My best description of the food style would be “high end bar food” with an obvious “pig” bent and British flair.  Some of the food names will require your waitress to interpret.

The appetizers are pretty cheap and not bad at all.  Tara and I shared:

The Marinated Olives 

The seeded olives are served in olive oil.  If you like olives, this a great dish.

Devils on Horseback

Bacon Wrapped Prunes with a Pear

Holy cow were these good.  They give you 5 bacon wrapped prunes with pear in the middle smothered with some type of glaze sauce!  It sounded a bit weird at first (who chooses prunes for an app unless you’re over 65 years of age?) but you know my motto — everything tastes good wrapped in bacon!

They had a bunch of other apps like devilled eggs and the crispy pig’s ear.  We didn’t venture to try anything else but we definitely will if we come again.

For the entrée, I went with what all the reviews I’d seen recommend and that was the Chargrilled Burger with Roquefort cheese and shoestring fries.  I’m not a fan of Bleu Cheese so I went sans Roquefort.  (This is Tara, again: I think it would’ve been 8,000 times better with the Roquefort, just saying.)  The bun starts it off right.  It’s lighty toasted with some type of buttery delight sauce.  There are NO condiments, tomato or lettuce necessary.  The price for this bad boy is steep ($17) but wow is it good!  It’s a bit salty so make sure you have a drink nearby.  Mine was prepared medium rare and it was to die for.  You’d think the fries would be just an “extra” thrown in there to compliment the burger.  Guess again….these competed with the burger for top honors.  The fries couldn’t have been cut any thinner which makes it feel as if you’re barely eating but I was definitely clearing the plate.  They were tossed with thinly sliced garlic and whole rosemary leaves for some extra flavor!

Look at that big, beefy beauty!

Tara got one of the daily specials: the white bean soup.  It wasn’t a broth and bean soup, but more of a creamy, pureed bean soup.  She said it had a slight spicy kick but she loved it.  If you know Tara, you know she loves her beans.  (Tara, again: I DO love beans!)

We weren’t going to have dessert but they had a few options that piqued our interest.  We went with the Popcorn flavored ice cream topped with caramel corn  sounded interesting.  I don’t know if I was expecting more but the ice cream was bland with really no flavor.  Luckily, the caramel corn made it worth ordering.

Overall, I give it 3 out of 4 stars.  The final bill was a bit much for the quantity of food and amount of options you’re given so I don’t foresee coming back for dinner.  I might, however, come back for the apps.  There were plenty to choose from and the price was just right.  So if you’re looking for a cool, trendy bar with some better than average beer selections and upscale appetizers, this would be the place.