10 Essential NYC Eats for Cheese-Lovers

When my friends reminisce about college, one thing that always comes up is the giant block of Seriously Sharp Hunter’s Cheddar that was a permanent resident in my mini-fridge. In my first Facebook profile, I listed “Cheese” as one of my interests. I could spend hours discussing the variety of ways I like to eat it – sweet, savory, hot, cold. I have never met a cheese I didn’t like.

There is something about the warm, melted ooey-goeyness that just makes my tummy happy. You too? Then these are the absolute best things to eat in New York City.

1. Khachapuri at Oda House or Cheeseboat

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My new favorite cuisine: Georgian.

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For someone who has never encountered this Georgian delicacy, it is best described as a buttery bread-bowl filled with cheese, baked, and topped with an egg. Then, right before your very eyes, it’s mixed around until the egg is cooked into creamy, fluffy perfection.

The walls of the bowl are designed to be torn off, dunked in the deliciousness, and eaten until not a tiny morsel remains. Think fondue if you could consume the pot at the end.

2. Cacio e Pepe at Cacio e Pepe

First off, I’ll just say that you can never go wrong by ordering an establishment’s namesake dish. There is usually a good reason they are calling themselves that.

I first discovered pasta served in a giant cheese wheel when Chrissy Teigen received one as a gift from her husband, John Legend, and immediately set about finding it and trying it myself.

Only a few weeks later, I found myself being served pasta, like tableside guacamole, brought steaming from the kitchen and tossed in a hollowed-out parmesan rind until it was thoroughly coated in a thick sauce of gooey cheese.

3. Savoyarde Raclette at Raclette

In its most classic form, a plate of potatoes, tiny pickles, and white pearl onions is brought to your seat. A wheel of Alpine cheese with one end lopped off is pressed against a hot rack until its very edge is liquefying. Then, it is carried to your meal, and scraped over the dish with a blade.

There are several varieties – including a filet mignon for two – but start with the original and work your way from there.

4. Big Mozz at Smorgasburg

Sure, you’ve had mozzeralla sticks before. And, you’ve probably been disappointed – by their slightly damp, flavorless breading, the stringiness of the cheese, or the near-choking experience you had trying to swallow a too-large bite.

Until, that is, you try these golden-brown sticks of beauty. I encountered them first in a food stand at Boston Calling, and have eaten them at every opportunity since. They are perfectly crunchy, bigger than the average finger size, and have just the right level of melt. The only problem is you’ll never want to get them anywhere else again.

5. Artichoke Slice from Artichoke

This NYC institution is best described as a bowl of creamy spinach-artichoke dip, poured over a thick, sturdy pizza crust that is made for tearing off and mopping up any spilled sauce.

There are several locations around the city for you to get your fix. My favorite pairing is a walk on the High Line followed by an Artichoke pie, served to order (not reheated) and shared with a few friends.

6. Cheese Fries (or Tots) from Crif Dogs

The best cheese fries, in my opinion, are the ones so drenched in liquid gold they require a fork to eat them. At Crif Dogs, this is exactly what they will deliver. You’ll open a foil packet of waffle fries – thick enough to stand up to the cheese without becoming soggy – that is simply swimming in hot, melty orange cheese.

7. The 3 Cheese from Cheese Grille

For some, the only proper classic grilled cheese is made with American slices sandwiched between white bread. If that’s your style, skip it here and go for the 3 Cheese. It’s a delicious blend of flavors on Pullman bread that is not-too-thick and has just the right crisp.

8. Fondue at Après-Ski in Café Select

So you ran out of time to schedule a ski vacation this winter. Or, the temperatures have gotten so hot that all you can dream of is snow. You’re in luck.

At Après-Ski, you sneak through the kitchen of Café Select and find yourself in a tiny, kitschy winter palace where the only thing to do is dip bread and veggies into a bowl of steaming cheese blends.

9. Mac and Cheese at Westville

While best-known for its selection of inventive veggie side dishes, my order at Westville is always chicken tenders and smoky mac and cheese. The sauce has the perfect richness of Gouda, and the kitchen staff knows the true secret to a good baked dish: a nice brown crisp on top. There is an option to add bacon, but you’re just throwing away a dollar on something that is already delicious.

10. Queso Fundido at Cascabel

As a life-long lover of tacos and cheese, I somehow never tried queso fundido (read: a bowl of melty cheese served with tortillas) until adulthood. I had it first at Cascabel, and though I have tried it many places since, I have never looked back. Though, if you don’t want to make a trip to the Upper East Side, Avenida Cantina is a close second.

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Decoration or Dinner? 5 Flowering Plants That You Can Add to Your a Salad

Growing up wandering the aisles of my Uncle Gene’s greenhouses taught me one important lesson: plants may be pretty, but they are also good snacks.

House plants serve many purposes.

  • They provide that nice pop of green next to your gold curtains.
  • They’re a good barometer for if you’re ready to get a cat (or a dog).
  • They clean the air you breathe 

But flowering plants have another, lesser-appreciated benefit – besides just sitting there and looking pretty, of course.  Many can be trimmed and added to your salad, soup, or sauté.

Nasturtium

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Photo by Pezibear on Pixabay

The flat, disk-shaped leaves and the bright yellow-orange blooms of these little beauties are both edible. They add a peppery zip to any salad. Or, use the flower to decorate the plate of a special meal.

The dwarf varieties are best for growing in containers indoors. They like full sun, and can take a little abuse if you don’t have much of a green thumb. If you have a bigger outdoor space, they will spread, and grace you with lots of free plants.

Chives

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Photo by Pitsch on Pixabay

These green stalks grow easily on nearly any windowsill, but prefer full sun. Most people don’t realize that they sprout a pretty purple bloom that adds a delicate oniony-flavor to sauces or scrambled eggs.

My favorite use is to trim them into plain cream cheese for a yummy spread or dip. They are like a mild scallion when mixed into a salad, or chopped into a soup.

Pansies

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Photo by MrGajowy3 on Pixabay

Pansies are often seen in tiny ceramic pots as the favor for a springtime baby shower. That’s because they are vibrant and like the sunshine and cool temperatures of April (read: don’t set them right next to your radiator).

You can tear off the petals to toss with your mixed greens for a grassy, almost minty, note, or use the whole bloom as an edible garnish for cocktail night or a special cake.

Dandelion

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Photo by makamuki0 on Pixabay

Though dandelions are commonly seen as weeds, every part of this plant is edible – roots, stems, leaves, and flowers. They’re often sprouting in the cracks of the sidewalk, or among the grass of your yard, so for a beginner gardener, they make a hardy choice in a pot.

Dandelion greens have a bitter flavor akin to Swiss chard or radicchio when uncooked or sautéed with a little garlic and olive oil. The flowers are a treat when battered and fried. The root has a history as a homeopathic remedy when made into tea. Some believe it improves liver function, digestion, and even skin problems.

Calendula (Pot Marigolds)

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Photo by olinuez on Pixabay

 

Calendula thrive in sun or shade. Place them any nook, but be sure not to over-water.

These bright orange petals can be mixed in with a salad uncooked, or dried then used in place of saffron seasoning. It is used as an alternative remedy for certain skin problems and may speed wound healing when made into a salve or tincture.

How to Sleep Anywhere When You Suck at Sleeping

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I often have a hard time sleeping. And I am one of those people who becomes very grumpy when sleep deprived. In order to sleep well, I need complete silence, complete darkness, and a comfortable place to lie down. As such, I’ve made some investments in my apartment that have made my bedroom a haven for difficult sleepers. I have a down featherbed, padded mattress pad, super soft sheets, 100% down pillows, blackout curtains and a white noise machine. Sometimes it’s almost too comfortable to get up. But there are times when I can’t sleep in my specially designed sleeping cocoon – when I am on vacation, when I need to sleep in transit, or if I stay over at a friend’s home. Luckily, a year living on a noisy avenue, and in an apartment where hoards of pigeons congregated outside my window have forced me to develop some handy coping strategies so I am not biting all my friends heads off when I visit them, or ruining a trip by being irritable. Here are the tools you need for sleeping anywhere, even when the conditions are not ideal.

Figure out your sleep soundtrack

If you prefer silence or white noise, buy some travel ear plugs. I think the best ones for blocking sound, and the most comfortable for sleeping are the mushy foam kind that you can roll down to fit into your ears.

If you need music or television, download some soothing songs and make a sleeping playlist, then get some sound cancelling headphones for when you’re catching zzz’s on a plane.

Pick a side

Everyone has a side that they sleep more comfortably on- mine is the left. So, when I am booking a trip that I know I’ll want to sleep on the way, I make sure to snag a left hand window so I can lean against it and snooze (or a right hand seat if I know my travel companion will lend me their shoulder). If you’re a stomach sleeper, pulling out the tray table in front of you and putting a pillow down is a pretty good substitute.

Determine your ideal sleep conditions

Then get the things you need to closely mirror them when you’re not at home. I like to be laying down on soft things in darkness. So, when I travel, I bring an eye mask in case the room I am sleeping in is bright, and a mini cushion to wedge against any hard surfaces I might want to lean against to get as close to laying down as I can. Sometimes it’s a mini pillow, sometimes it’s just a big sweater I can take off and ball up into a pillow. If you can’t sleep when your toes are cold, pack a pair of warm socks for the train. People might look at you like you’re a diva, but do you really care if it means you’re well-rested at the end of your trip?

How to Calm Down When You Feel Like Blowing Up

How to calm down when you feel like blowing upIf you asked people that know me to describe my personality, it’s likely that the words, chill, easy-going, and calm would come into play. But what people who haven’t known me for many years don’t realize is that I wasn’t always so zen. When I was younger, I was prone to big fights with my parents, dramatic tantrums because I couldn’t find the right outfit, and had a healthy bit of road rage.

You’d never guess it from how little my temper flares now.

Sure, long lines at the store, and people walking slow up the subway stairs get on my nerves. But the number of times I actually get mad enough to blow up? They are few and far between.

When I am stuck in a crowd, or about to snap at someone for something silly, I try to remember to ask myself these 5 questions.

  1. Will yelling about this make anything about this situation better 10 minutes from now?
  2. Was it really this person’s intention to make me feel hurt/offended/angry/upset?
  3. Or is there something going on in her day that might make her a little more concerned with herself than with how she’s making other people feel?
  4. Is it ACTUALLY the slow delivery guy that’s made me so upset, or is something else going on that’s making me a little more on edge?
  5. So I’m going to get there an hour later. Is a 60 minute difference worth having a big fight?

Sometimes a well-placed stern-talking-to can make a world of difference, and I definitely don’t advise sweeping major problems under the rug.

But in that moment when I’m about to flip out, thinking about the other person usually helps to calm me down. Generally, everyone is doing the best that they can, “and best can vary a lot from person to person every day.” And everything isn’t about you – people have their own *ish going on. You might just be a casualty of their bad day. Taking the actions of others with a grain of salt can really help.

Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

 

The Death of the RSVP

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Sure we all have a lot going on, but when did flakiness become the rule (instead of the exception)?

These are all actual responses to a get together I planned to host – in my home, that required real supplies, and actual food/drinks (not just a seamless delivery or meetup at a bar).

“I think so!”

“Can I let you know? I think I have a dinner that night so I’m not sure yet.”

….no response….

“Ah sounds so fun and I think I should be free. Would love to join and can confirm tomorrow!”

“I’m not sure, but keep me in the loop.”

 “I plan on coming…”

And the subtext was…

…if I plan ahead and go to the gym before work (but I probably won’t).

…if work isn’t too crazy.

…if nothing better comes up.

…if I don’t decide I’d rather watch Netflix by myself.

I can read between the lines. It’s like everyone liked the idea of getting together, but no one wanted to actually commit until they knew definitively there wasn’t a more appealing plan.

Or maybe they wanted to just wishy washy enough that when they decided to bail at the last minute, I, as the hostess, wouldn’t be surprised.

Then, the day before – when any good party planner has already made the bulk of the preparations for the get together (read: spent money on booze and food) – the cancellations started to roll on in.

“Sorry to be a total flake, but something came up I need to see about.”

“Sorry to be lame, I have a tinder date… I don’t want to be alone forever lolz!”

“I feel like death. I’m trying to rest up so I can be well for this weekend!”

“I don’t think I can make it. I got a big week at work!!!”

And the sad thing is – I expected them. It has become so common for people to cancel on plans via a quick text with little to no notice, it wasn’t a shock.

But it was a disappointment, because no matter how much you expect it, when you’ve made preparations for having company, it’s a bummer when they pull out. Luckily for my not-attending guests, it’s hard to hear frustration through a text message. And even though your guest is doing the rude thing, the polite way to respond isn’t to say…

“What happened to making plans, and then scheduling other things around it?”

“Tinder dates can happen any damn day of the week – except the one you already had a thing.”

“How late are you really working homey?”

It’s to say…

“No worries! Let’s get together soon!”

“Have fun! Maybe he’s the one!!”

“Ugh work is the worst, but at least I’ll see you this weekend instead!”

It’s to let your guest off the hook, and smooth things over, when what you really want to do is tell your friends that they’re the absolute worst.

Now, sometimes, it’s true. Things do come up after you’ve already made plans – and being sick is a legitimate excuse, but this isn’t that. It’s an epidemic of refusing to say you’re going to do something, then actually do it.

Of course we all occasionally skip the birthday party you said you’d go to because you’re tired out and need a night on the couch, and you know that 10 other people will be there at there at the bar with cake and candles. Bailing happens.

Yet lately, it seems like a weird bystander effect – you know, the one that makes no one call the cops when they witness a crime because just think someone else is going to do it – but socially. Everyone thinks that someone else will be there. Someone else won’t bail. In big groups of friends, it’s easy to get away with. Except what if, what if one time no one actually shows up?

Or it’s the constant connectedness. There was a time when if you were having a birthday party, you had to mail invitations. Then to respond, you had to pick up the phone and talk to a person – or at least leave a recorded voice message saying if you’d make it. Now, invites happen by group text, by facebook invitation, or evite. It’s a lot easier to ignore the RSVP when there’s no personal contact involved – or to write a quick message cancelling with lots of emojis and exclamation points that seem to capture how disappointed you are to miss it. There’s no disappointed tone of voice. No frown to see.

Or maybe it’s invitation fatigue. There are so many things to do all the time, we get tired, panic, and don’t respond to any of them. Or we genuinely want to go, say we will, then feel overwhelmed and bail. But here’s an idea – what if, we just commit to the things we can realistically do and then use google calendar to remind ourselves?

In many ways, it’s actually easier to remember what we have to do than it was in yesteryear. We have iPhone alerts, and google calendars that sync across devices. There’s no more writing it on one calendar, but not seeing it when you’re at work and it’s at home.

There is uber and lyft so we don’t have to worry about a designated driver (at least in metropolitan areas).

There are services that will deliver us gifts within two days, wrapped if we please. I can even order a card online and have someone else write it and mail it for me. Still I find myself constantly frustrated by flakiness and refusal to commit.

Wouldn’t we all be a lot happier if we just decided to do what we want (and stick to it)?Can you relate?

And until everyone gets their ish together, at least there is this guide to getting people to ACTUALLY show up.

Image by Pexels.

How to Be Happy: 26 Strategies Backed by Research

“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”

Aristotle said that over 2,000 years ago. And for most of us, it holds still true today. The ultimate goal in life is to be happy. And for good reason. Besides feeling great, happiness provides additional benefits including greater health, increased longevity, better relationships, more fulfilling marriages, increased productivity at work, improved creativity, and so on.

The good news is that happiness isn’t a mystery anymore. Research has uncovered many activities that have now been scientifically proven to make people happier. These activities are listed in the following infographic by NJlifehacks, which is titled ‘How to Be Happy: 26 Strategies Backed by Research’.

According to the infographic, happiness is as simple as exercising regularly, spending quality time with family and friends, experiencing flow on a regular basis, or doing random acts of kindness. To find out more, check out the infographic below:

How-to-be-happy-infographic

Can Money Buy Happiness?

Can money buy happiness?The rote answer – or old adage – is, “No.” Wealth does not equal bliss.

After a certain point, that is. Anyone who has tried to do without much of it knows that money is important. It gives you access to the things you need to survive (read: food, clothes, heat), and freedom to escape bad situations (read: health problems, an abusive partner, a job you hate).

Having it may not automatically guarantee a joy-filled existence, but not having it can certainly make your life difficult. Indeed, broadly speaking, people who have money are happier than those who struggle to get by.

But it’s not quite so simple as this. Obviously money must have some perks, or we wouldn’t work such long hours to get it every day. Yet, as Dan Gilbert, professor at Harvard and author of Stumbling on Happiness says, “Once you get basic human needs met, a lot more money doesn’t make a lot more happiness.” For several reasons:

  • Humans are adaptable. That promotion that seems life-changing when you receive it quickly becomes the new normal.
  • More money can bring more stress – in the form of extra responsibility or a longer commute to your fancy home.
  • There is always someone richer than you, and that comparison is a happiness killer.

So how much is enough? The magic yearly income seems to be $75,000 on average, after which emotional well-being improvements drop off. Though it varies by major metropolitan area. Residents of NYC, Philadelphia, LA, and Seattle hit peak happiness at $105,000, while people in the windy city reach it at $54,000. If you’re lucky enough to live in Atlanta, you can reach that goal at $42,000.

If you’ve already attained it (or that’s far from a realistic goal for you), here’s how to make the most of what you’ve got.

  • Buy experiences instead of things. The pleasure of a day trip is much longer lasting than a new top, which quickly becomes an old, unloved top clogging up your closet.
  • Get off the hedonic treadmill. Instead of buying new things, stop adapting to what you have. Learn to appreciate your things anew by swapping pictures on a wall, or depriving yourself of a possession for a certain period.
  • Give it away. Even a small amount donated to a cause you value can lift spirits.
  • Spend it on making your life easier. Outsource tasks you hate – like mowing the lawn – to someone else, and the windfall time you save can boost your happiness.

Now, don’t you feel better already?

Image by Burst.