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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25 Things

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You might not know about me…

1. I am often awake between the hours of 3 and 6 am, and get a lot of random things accomplished…like writing this, and reorganizing my closet.

2. I have a weakness for anything with a cute furry little animal on it.

3. I LOVE to decorate for holidays and make holiday greeting cards, especially Christmas.

4. I am still terrified by the movie Scream, and Scream 2. I CANNOT believe they are making another one.

5. I’m strangely good at crossword and jigsaw puzzles.

6. I’m not going to lie, I still have a lot of trouble picking out my outfit without an opinion (often via a text photo).

7. I’m working on writing a novel.

8. But if I could do anything, I would definitely be a fashion designer.

9. I love doing crafts, and have an entire box full of different colored jelly pens, glitter and googly eyes.

10. I regularly try to win the lottery, and actually think that I might every time I buy a ticket.

11. Pessimists really get on my nerves.

12. I don’t feel like myself without regular doses of my girlfriends from home, who have all been a wonderful part of my life since elementary school, and I don’t know what I would ever do without them.

13. I believe that everyone has multiple people/soulmates they are destined to meet and have in their lives forever.

14. There is nothing better than laughing until your face/abs hurt.

15. I’m slightly addicted to watching music videos and anything on mtv/bravo.

16. My top 5 favorite places I’ve been are: 1.Rome 2. Berlin 3. Costa Rica 4. Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and 5. Paris. Bolivia is up there too. And I feel really lucky to have been able to visit so many places already. Next on my list to visit is Bali and Iceland.

17. I (not-so) secretly dream of designing my own neighborhood called Janny Panny lane that only my friends and family would be allowed to live in.

18. Getting new nail polish color makes me pretty happy.

19. My sister is my best friend.

20. If I wasn’t concerned for my health, I’d cook like an old southern woman, with lots of mayonnaise and butter.

21. If I could only drink one alcoholic beverage for the rest of my life, it would definitely be champagne……or twisted tea-lol. If I could only eat one kind of food it would definitely be mexican.

22. I’m really ridiculously scared of cockroaches to the point that once I strategically baked cupcakes when the exterminator was coming so he would put extra poison in my apartment.

23. I’m still really really bad at driving in reverse, and actually think that some people just lack the ability to do it. (like me)

24. I have big dreams of learning to hula hoop dance.

25. I think that people who have never been swimming in a lake/river/waterfall or gone canoeing are seriously deprived in life.

Image by Yellow Button Studio

When You Woke Up on the Wrong Side of the Bed

You’re cranky. EVERYTHING is pissing you off: the lady on the subway sleeping when you want to be sitting + reading a magazine, the chipper guy in front of you in line at Starbucks, the sunshine that is SO BRIGHT its hurting your eyes. We all have those days, where no matter what happens its not going to turn your mood around.

When I have days like that, I need a little perspective to put my problems back into a normal scale. Here are some things you can try:

  • Follow Oprah’s advice:
    • Make a list of things you’re grateful for in your life
    • That includes little things like warm socks
    •  That includes big stuff like an awesome sister
  • Google the median income of the place you live
    • In the U.S., it’s around $45,000
    • Chances are you don’t know how well off you really are
  • Download the Thankful For app to your smart phone
    • Read some quotes
    • View the public timeline
    • Repeat
  • Go grab a glass of water from that tap.
    • Did you know that 783 million people (about 2.5x the population of the U.S.) can’t do that?
    •  Because they don’t have access to clean water?
  • Use the restroom and flush the toilet.
    • 2.6 billion people don’t have access to hygenic public sanitation systems
    • More people have a mobile phone than have a toilet

If you’re reading this, it means you’re part of the roughly 40% of the world population with access to the internet. Now don’t you’re problems seem a little smaller?

Share Some Warm Fuzzies

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Way back when I was in middle school, I went to sleep away camp for the very first time. I’d been to day camps, but never stayed away for a whole week. My friends at home and I were used to spending every moment together. I wasn’t sure how I’d like being gone for so long. They wrote me wonderful letters with collages and updates on what I’d missed while I was away, and though they were lovely they made me a bit home sick. But that didn’t last for long. We were split into groups called families with two adults, and ten campers. We’d meet each day, and do activities together, and talk about what we’d been up to. It was the camp’s way of making sure everyone had some friends even if you didn’t hit it off with anyone during free swim.

I lucked out and was assigned to a group I loved. We got very close, very quickly, as is the way of camps, so much so that the last night was full of tears and heartache to be leaving. I still call a few of them my good friends today. As a final activity with our family before we all went home in the morning, our adults kicked off an exercise they called warm fuzzies.

Everyone sat in a circle. One by one, each person in the group was picked and then everyone else went around the room, and said what they liked about that person. The camp counselor wrote it all down on a list, and the person got to keep it as a record of their warm fuzzies at the end. Some were simple, “She has pretty hair.” Others were a little deeper, “He has a gentle soul.” All were heart-stoppingly touching to hear people you cared about just sit and say out loud. It was such a flood of good feels all at once. It brought everyone even closer than before and ended in a series of group hugs.

When I chaperoned a group of 10 undergrads from my alma mater on a volunteer trip to Bolivia, I remembered how special those moments were. One night, after a particularly tough day, I gathered everyone together in the biggest bunk bedroom in the apartment where we stayed. Now I was the adult in the group, keeping track of the warm fuzzies. We all took turns, me and the team leader starting things off. Going around, and sharing all of the good qualities we’d seen come out in our first 7 days. This time I was the one tearing off a sheet of notebook paper and handing them out to the group.

Once again, the night ended in embraces and happiness all around. When I look through old memory boxes, sometimes I still unfold those papers, and read through all of the beautiful things people shared with me. It’s not often enough that we just sit down and tell the people we care about the things we like about them. So, this weekend, share some warm fuzzies of your own. Tell one person you love, one thing you love about them. It will make you, and them feel just great.

Image by Denise Cortez

Can’t Decide? Flip a Coin

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When I was 18 years old, deciding what college to go to was the biggest choice I’d ever had to make. For a girl who struggled with what outfit to wear on a daily basis, the immensity of the decision was paralyzing. This place would decide my future friends, future husband, future career, where I live. I was committing a whole 4 years of my life – a time period that doesn’t seem so long from 30 – but comprised a huge fraction of my teenage life.  It didn’t help that I was devastated to be leaving all of my best friends since elementary school behind. Why couldn’t we all go together again?

I didn’t get into my top choice, and was too offended by the waitlist suggestion of my second choice to even consider it. I had my pride! So, that narrowed the real contenders to three choices – ignoring all the safeties. The first decision was between city and country. I have been accepted to a college in the middle-of-nowhere Upstate New York. The beautiful campus, huge equestrian program, and promise of sorority parties pulled me. But after growing up in the country, the two NYC colleges beckoned with their bright lights, big city appeal.

I tortured my family and friends. I cried. I made lists, and still was no where closer to picking a school even though the deadlines loomed nearer. Then, after one particularly dramatic dinner with my dad, spent almost entirely agonizing over the decision, we got back to his house, and he pulled out a quarter.

“Well, you don’t seem any closer to deciding now than you were three weeks ago. So, let’s flip a coin. Whatever comes up, that’s where you’ll go.” I was pissed that he was simplifying my plight, but begrudgingly agreed. We said heads, I’d go to St. Lawrence, tails – Fordham. When the heads came up, I had a sinking feeling.

“So, are you excited or disappointed?” Dad asked. I had to confess, the coin toss was kind of a let down.

It turns out that my dad had never actually planned to decide based on a 50-50 chance. He just knew that regardless of what came up, I would feel a certain way. That would guide my choice. It was a clever trick to get around teenage indecision.

Now, in moments when I just.can’t.pick. I pull out a coin and see how the flip makes me feel. And, I’ve been living in NYC for almost 12 years now, and I couldn’t be happier with the choice I (finally) made.

Take Back Your Lunch Hour

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Feel like you don’t have enough hours in the day? It’s probably the most common complaint from me and my friends. We live in a world where busy is a badge of honor. Doing nothing is seen as an indulgence, not an everyday treat. There always seems to be more things I need to do, or activities I want to do.

For my birthday this year, my friends and family put together a book of the things they loved about me, and one that came up over and over was that I do more than they think humanly possible.

And it’s true, I do a lot.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve hated being bored. When I have a whole day with no plans, it’s exhausting for me, not refreshing. I’d rather be do-do-doing. Which sometimes means I overschedule myself. So what do I do in those moments when I have too many activities, and not enough time?

I make my lunch hour the most productive minutes of my day. Instead of sitting at my desk and perusing twitter for the latest gossip, I run errands. I cross the items that would take up my after-work hours right off my to-do list before my day at the office is even done.

I need to buy a fan? That’s totally doable in 60 minutes. Pop over to a venue to pick up concert tickets? I’ll be back at my desk in under an hour. Have a quick wax? If that takes longer than 20 minutes I’ll be seriously suffering. Is it sleep you’re missing out on? A 30-minute power nap in your car can make all the difference.

I take a look at the stuff I have to get done, and I evaluate what’s possible in an hour or less. Cutting the running around out of your time reserved for fun and relaxation frees up your evenings and gives you the boost of energy you need to get through the rest of the work day with a little fresh air and speed walking.

Links

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Hi Friends, I hope you’re out enjoying a lovely 3-day weekend. If you’ve got time to kill before brunch, check out these links!

I want to decorate my whole apartment with this beautiful watercolor furniture.

These magical shoes can change color with the touch of an app. Take that outfit dilemma.

A fascinating podcast on how the government created residential segregation.

It’s so messed up that Tom Brady is being punished more harshly than all the murderers and domestic abusers in the NFL.

A cancer survivor designs the empathy cards she wish she had received.

Nonsense karaoke will never stop making me laugh.

A good reminder when you’re not quite where you want to be in life.

I’ve been trying to convince my friends into doing this for years. I would name our community Janny Panny Lane.

Some disturbing wildlife stats.

Yum, this recipe looks delish.