Saturday, June 30, 2012

fridays are for brunches

Didn't you know? In reality, it's not actually that easy finding a weekday brunch in the brunch-loving city that is New York. Thankfully, there's Caravan of Dreams.
Tucked into the gorgeous grit that is the East Village, this organic and vegan restaurant has been on my "Must Try" list for quite some time. And when I heard Miss Mackenzie was rolling into town (quite literally, she rode a bus), I knew it'd be the perfect occasion. The lovely girl is vegan, and even though I trust her road trip experience will be as thrilling as my own, she will be in dire need of a good breakfast by its end. I thought I'd help the cause.
We began with coffee--hot with almond milk for me, iced decaf with almond milk for her. Can one borrow a caffeine infatuation? It was delicious; I was strung out for the rest of the day. With our $16 prix-fixe brunch meal, we also enjoyed a glass of sangria each, made more enjoyable by the fact that it was 11:30am on a Friday.
Then, we were served an impressive house salad complete with sprouts and dressed in a glorious tamari-lemon-ginger dressing. Mmm mm, good.
It's worth noting that we had the entire restaurant to ourselves as well, at least for the first hour. Time flew as we updated each other on our lives, in addition to some hopes and dreams. We swapped travel stories and dating anecdotes. We even partook in a little blogging gossip. I tell ya, great times are had with this gal.
For my entrée, I'd ordered the Mediterranean Brunch and was delighted to find it was even more amazing than it sounded: Spanish rice, seitan, sautéed greens, tomato, ali oli. She seemed thoroughly satisfied with her Breakfast Burrito, too.
Strong coffee, non-virgin sangria, tasty vegan fare, fantastic conversation, and a cozy atmosphere... on a Friday morn? I'd like to think it was one helluva second date. One of my best. I also love knowing I still have a brunch to look forward to this weekend. Hasta mañana, Patrick Swayze, ice cream, and mimosas.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

after work in nyc

"Whenever you give up an apartment in New York and move to another city, New York turns into the worst version of itself. Someone I know once wisely said that the expression “It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there” is completely wrong where New York is concerned; the opposite is true. 
New York is a very livable city. But when you move away and become a visitor, the city seems to turn against you. It’s much more expensive (because you need to eat all your meals out and pay for a place to sleep) and much more unfriendly. Things change in New York; things change all the time. 
 You don’t mind this when you live here; when you live here, it’s part of the caffeinated romance to this city that never sleeps. But when you move away, your experience change as a betrayal. 
You walk up Third Avenue planning to buy a brownie at a bakery you’ve always been loyal to, and the bakery’s gone. 
Your dry cleaner move to Florida; your dentist retires; the lady who made the pies on West Fourth Street vanishes; the maitre d’ at P.J. Clarke’s quits, and you realize you’re going to have to start from scratch tipping your way into the heart of the cold, chic young woman now at the down. 
You’ve turned your back from only a moment, and suddenly everything’s different. 
You were an insider, a native, a subway traveler, a purveyor of inside tips into the good stuff, and now you’re just another frequent flyer, stuck in a taxi on Grand Central Parkway as you wing in and out of La Guardia. 
Meanwhile, you read that Manhattan rents are going up, they’re climbing higher, they’re reached the stratosphere.
It seems that the moment you left town, they put a wall around the place, and you will never manage to vault over it and get back into the city again." -Nora Ephron, "Secret to Life: Marry an Italian" (via BlackBook {Blog, Blah, Blah})
Yesterday, I met Anna for happy hour... which turned into more than one local brew and a veggie burger at The Half King, a stroll on The High Line
and then, gelato at Eataly.
P.S. About a month ago, I wrote an email to a girl I met while in Dallas. Her and her husband had planned a trip to New York and they asked to meet me for dinner or a drink. Unfortunately, I would be traveling at the time. So, I wrote them back with every single suggestion I could think of, my feeble attempt at making them fall for the city I know and love. Any chance you'd be interested in reading it?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

rosé in montréal

Yesterday, in addition to creating a Facebook page for this blog and working a 9-hour workday, I survived a persistent mild headache. The culprit: unintentionally enjoying half a bottle of rosé the night before. My friend had invited me over for a barbecue, and being that it'd been oh-so-humid here, nothing sounded better than chilled wine to have with grilled chicken, peppers, couscous, and salad. Apparently the tolerance I had living in Santiago and Strasbourg has diminished. It's been five years since. Go figure.
Looking back, it's also been a good amount of time since I last savored a rosé. Nine times out of ten, I prefer a red; unless I'm by the water, where white seems more appropriate, or the sun is incredibly strong, at which point I reach for a beer. Rosé will always hold a very special place in my heart though. I failed to mention this in the story of my affair, but it's the first bottle of wine I appreciated and drank legally at the age of 19, all because I'd accidentally befriended Mia, a French graduate student at SU at the time.
She was (and is) wonderful. Not only did she help me study for my French language exams, but she also encouraged me to take a weekend getaway with her to Montréal. She had friends studying abroad there. We left Syracuse at 5am Saturday morning.

After spending the afternoon wandering, we went back to their eclectic apartment for pizza and drinks. Then, a night on the town.
We had so much fun, I eventually forgot I was younger than every single person there... and, oh, could hardly speak French.
The following morning, we awoke at a reasonable hour to explore more of the city with a best friend from her French university. (On a nostalgic note, I was in this same spot with my college best friend just two years and four months later.)
We planned on grabbing a quick lunch next, before leaving the city all together. But something happened as we were wandering through Vieux-Montréal. I realized we had no reason to rush; enjoying a leisurely lunch al fresco with a bottle of rosé between the three of us, then strolling through the cobblestone streets until we were comfortable enough to drive sounded so much sweeter.
So, that's what we did.
C'était parfait. I'd had a challenging fall semester that sophomore year of mine, and it was just the escape I needed to remind me of who I was, what I wanted, and how much this world had to offer. I was somewhat of a deep 19-year old, huh? That, or dramatic.

Words by D. Alvarez, Photos by M. Nomalanga Diimbi

Sunday, June 24, 2012

from concrete to greenery

Yesterday, a friend from home invited me to join her for a hike. I wanted to go even just to hang out with her, but I also realized it's been almost two years since I enjoyed Rockefeller State Park Preserve. Not okay! The Preserve is conveniently located close to our parents' houses and with over 1,400 acres, one can always find a new scenic path through "wetlands, woodlands, meadows, and fields and past streams, rivers, and lakes while traversing wood and stone bridges." Plus, on a sunny, summer day, there are few things more refreshing (the beach is one of those things, of course, but don't worry, plans are on the horizon).
I love walking through the city's busy and crowded streets. There's an invigorating energy and beautiful sights along the way. I read once that, "Paris is the most modern of ancient cities, while New York is the most ancient of modern cities." There's truth to that. Even just one New York City block represents years and years of history, and it's almost magical to try to digest it all. Then, following just 40 minutes on a train, I can find myself up here amongst even older trees and stars. Amazing, isn't it?
A recent HuffPo article outlined some of the benefits of outdoor exercise: improved attention and focus,  greater likelihood to keep exercising, lower risk of being overweight, more energy, faster healing and less pain, and higher Vitamin D levels. They also referenced a 2010, BBC-reported study finding: even just five minutes of exercise in green space can improve mood and self-esteem. My friend and I spent an hour and fifteen minutes hiking. Talk about an endorphin boost :).
Afterwards, we retreated to The Patio Restaurant for a late lunch. For a diner-style eatery, this place has an impressive salad menu. I had the Bella salad (chopped mesclun greens, spinach, arugula, asparagus, fresh oranges, sweet walnuts, raisins, goat cheese, avocado, plum tomatoes) with grilled salmon. Delicious.
It was quite the pleasant afternoon. And later on, I enjoyed a quintessential summer night in the city atop a Williamsburg rooftop. There really are an infinite number of ways to have an "I love New York (state)" moment.

Friday, June 22, 2012

heat waves & prom dresses

If you haven't heard already, it's very hot and humid in New York; as if the newly appointed summer were trying to make a point or something. This means one of two things. First, my eating habits will most definitely "improve." This is not to say that I make completely unhealthy choices the other three seasons of the year, just that in the heat of summer, I crave more raw fruits and vegetables.   
Case in point: today's breakfast smoothie. If you can believe it, I was actually explaining this recipe to a gentleman at a West Village bar late Wednesday night, and he was actually very interested in hearing it. I can be quite the conversationalist ;). Moving on... my usual blend consists of spinach, banana, cucumber, frozen berries, romaine, flax, almond milk, cinnamon, and avocado. Today, however, I tried something new.
Last week, a representative from Vega contacted me to see if I'd be interested in trying their newly branded Vega Energizing Smoothie. Yes, please! I hadn't enjoyed a Vega smoothie since the delicious Shake & Go choco-a-lot samples on my road trip, and was thrilled to find I love the vanilla almond Energizing Smoothie just as much. Rich in nutrition (two vegetable servings, 10g plant-based protein, 5g fiber, 1g Omega-3) and ridiculously convenient ("add water, shake, and go!"), they also come in four other flavors: tropical fruits, chocolate, mixed berries, and natural. I can't wait to try each one this coming week.
Aside from salads and smoothies, I also tend to gravitate towards quicker meals. Yesterday, I whipped up a batch of quinoa with edamame and bell peppers, grilled a handful of my beloved haricot verts, and warmed up left-over falafals (inspired by Heidi Swanson on a day when it wasn't ludicrous to use the oven) for lunch.
Second, the on-set of summer means that although I'm re-starting a running routine, I will most often seek refuge (and exercise) in beautiful, air-conditioned studios like this one. You can follow my class reviews on Pravassa. In other news, remember how I mentioned my little sister's prom? Well, there she is looking stunning as always in the left photo. To the right, you'll see me, seven years ago, at my junior prom. Our dresses are surprisingly similar, wouldn't you say?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

summertime solstice

Hello, hello! Happy summer to you! Just one year ago, I kicked off the day by yoga-ing in Times Square. Today, on the other hand, I'm working from home home (am I the only one who repeats words in order to emphasize their meaning?) so I can see my sister off to her junior prom at the end of this very hot and very long first day of summer. How times change :). Anywho, being that the season has officially begun, I thought it appropriate to share what I'm most looking forward to:
early morning runs, days at the beach, spinach smoothies, weekend getaways, best friend visits, farmers market bounty, weekly ice cream and gelato outings, rooftop parties, picnics in the park, vacation with my family, yoga al fresco, lunch/dinner al fresco, happy hours al fresco, and one huge announcement.
You'll have to sit tight for info on that last part :). In the mean time, let's reflect on a very special meal with my dear friend, Claire, shall we? As soon as she arrived in New York, we made plans to catch up in between family obligations. I suggested we meet at a lovely bistro, bakery and wine bar in Tarrytown, Chiboust.
We each enjoyed a refreshing glass of rosé and a piece of their fantastic bread. Then, as my entrée, I had the grilled Artic char served with truffled wild mushrooms and crispy leeks in a red wine reduction. It was exquisite. Her ratatouille seemed delicious as well. And when it came time for dessert... 
we did that, too :). The best part of the meal though was being able to chat with Claire. It's amazing, really. Her and I just briefly met through blogging while I was road tripping through Ann Arbor, and something just clicked. Aside from our appreciation of wine, travel, and vegetables, she too is a twenty-something trying her best to figure things out and follow her passions (like many of you, I suppose). It's so nice to sit back, relax, and connect with a friend like that. Reassuring, even.
"Summer, after all, is a time when wonderful things can happen to quiet people. For those few months, you're not required to be who everyone thinks you are, and that cut-grass smell in the air and the chance to dive into the deep end of the pool give you courage you don't have the rest of the year. You can be grateful and easy, with no eyes on you, and no past. Summer just opens the door and lets you out." -Deb Caletti, Honey, Baby, Sweetheart