Happy Hour Recipes with Ruthie of The Wild Carrot

As promised, I’m baaack–this time with some fun, easy-to-make recipes for your next happy hour or dinner party!

I was excited to collaborate with Ruthie on this post because I do love entertaining; I’m just not super comfortable in the kitchen and am looking to expand my recipe repertoire, if you will. Ruthie promised that her recipes would be super easy, and while I don’t think I nailed them 100 percent (it’s me, after all!), I did really enjoy piecing everything together because it did remind me 1) how many fun ingredients I could be incorporating into my usual meal prep (minced garlic, anyone?) and 2) how fulfilling it is to make something delicious AND be all set for the week in terms of leftovers (I filled up three tupperwares with leftover salad, which will be perfect paired with my usual lunch/dinner foods.).

Ruthie provided me with the recipes for her Truffled Turnip Fries and Classic Caesar Salad. If you know me, you know that fries and salad are two of my fave foods (ordering a salad + a side of fries is the way to go, obviously), so these were ideal meals to whip up at home. They really are perfect for a happy hour, because most people are looking to indulge a little with something salty but like having a healthy option available, too. (Though the fries are actually super guilt-free anyway, so no worries there!).

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I modified the turnip fry recipe a bit because I didn’t want to splurge on the truffle oil, since I don’t do a ton of cooking as it is and wanted to stock up on ingredients that I know I’ll use. I’m sure it would have made the fries extra tasty, but I honestly liked them as they were! They would also be great with a little ketchup or honey mustard on the side.

When picking up ingredients for the salad and its dressing, I couldn’t find avocado mayo and ended up purchasing olive oil mayo instead. But OMG- regardless, the dressing was so good. My mom makes homemade dressing and always served it when we were growing up, but I don’t think to make my own often enough anymore. It’s just so much tastier than what comes in the bottle at the store and is obviously much healthier. What I especially liked about this dressing is that it has the classic Caesar taste without being too strong or heavy. I feel like I could actually eat these leftovers for a few days in a row and not get tired of the taste like I normally might.

Ok, so now for the end results!

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These pictures may look a little funny since they’re just of the fries and salad (aka not a full meal), but I wolfed down this combo anyway because it was so good! If I were making an actual dinner, I would probably pair these things with a bowl of soup, a veggie burger, or really anything else with protein.

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Thanks for following along with today’s collab–and be sure to hop on over to Ruthie’s blog for recipes galore!

 

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A Seattle Apartment’s Bathroom Makeover

I totally have a bone to pick with social media a lot of the time, but then I remember how many amazing connections/reconnections have happened in my life because of apps like Instagram. And this is one of those cases! Recently, I happily reconnected with Ruthie, who was a few years below me in college and was in one of my favorite classes of all time (an American Studies course on gender and pop culture!) during my senior year. Ruthie is so nice and talented and lives in Seattle where she works in a corporate job by day but runs an awesome food blog/Instagram (linked up top!) in her spare time. We talked about how we both love having creative outlets in our lives and decided to do a little long-distance collab: I would help her design her (huge, incredibly gorgeous) bathroom, and she would provide me with some much-needed cooking ideas!

Go follow Ruthie @the_wildcarrot
Go follow Ruthie! @the_wildcarrot

For starters, can I just say how perfect Ruthie’s bathroom looks, even not fully decorated? My bathroom in my current apartment is TINY–which is totally fine since it’s just me, and I have a lot of other storage space in my closet, for example, but eek. My shower is teeny tiny, and the overall feel is very “cabin bathroom” esque, if that makes sense. Ruthie’s bathroom is huge, modern, and the perfect blank slate to make over!

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Since there’s so much decor out there to choose from, Ruthie kindly gave me a little bit of background on the place and her preferences. She told me that she redid the floors and sink after moving in (she says that before, the bathroom was “very 90s with pale green walls”) and that she’s into any style except for farmhouse (noted!). She said that the rest of her apartment is mid-century looking with rose gold and metallic notes (love!) and her bedroom is more blue/coastal. In particular, she is looking for something to place between the toilet and shower on the back wall and is in need of accessory ideas (whether to purchase online or look for at local consignment shops–totally wish I could join!).

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Soooo, off I went to do some browsing! And here’s what I put together to get her started!

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Toilet/Shower area: 

  • I thought that a storage system like this one would fit perfectly in the space between Ruthie’s toilet and shower, and it can hold much needed supplies like shampoo bottles, cosmetics, makeup wipes, etc. She likely doesn’t need a ton of additional storage because there are so many drawers by the sink, but sometimes it’s helpful to have a few products within reach of the shower. The key is to not fill the drawers too high, though, or they’ll start to look junky! I would probably swap out the drawer pull for something a little less sterile in order to add some personality to the piece (one of these Anthropolgie knobs would be gorg!). On top, Ruthie could place a tray (something she could look for at a flea market, since she may find one with character) to hold favorite perfumes and nail polishes. Alternatively, a rolling cart would also look adorable here. You could add some fun touches like candles and succulents succulents while still using it to store essentials.
  • I also love the idea of hanging a wall shelf like this one from Urban Outfitters between the toilet and shower (instead of placing a storage unit there) to keep the space open. It would look gorgeous with some plants, perfumes, and candles. The style matches her bathroom’s modern look, and she could still keep a few items nearby the shower on the day-to-day (extra shampoo bottles, lotions, etc) without it getting too cluttered.
  • I’m all for a good stool–you guys know how much I love this set from Serena & Lily, but this TJ Maxx option is a little cheaper and also makes a statement. I keep seeing stools like this in large bathrooms and they’re so versatile!
  • Since Ruthie’s bathroom floors are a light wood color, I thought she could go for a more colorful bathmat, like this one from Bed Bath & Beyond (which seems like it would go with her “coastal colored” bedroom!). The shade should help brighten up the space and make it a little more lively.

Wall Space: 

  • Ruthie already has some art hanging in the bathroom, but she has so much wall space that she could definitely fit some additional pieces! I love incorporating figure sketches in the bathroom, but abstract pieces, photographs, or really anything else would look good if styled nicely. I really like this print from Society6, which would look beautiful matted in a white frame, and this sign from Anthropologie.

Vanity: 

  • As for the sink area, I love these marble bathroom accessories, which are useful and will match the bathroom’s modern look. And she already has the right idea by placing candles and a little cactus on the vanity!
  • Ruthie could also prop up a piece of framed artwork, like this Seattle skyline print from Etsy, to have something to look at while getting ready (a framed photo would work, too!).
  • Fingers crossed this post provides Ruthie with some inspo–and stay tuned for her recipe reveal!

Stay tuned as I work on Ruthie’s recipe recs, which will be coming to the blog this evening! I’ll share more details soon, but they’re great if you’re hosting a small get together or just want to add something new to your usual weeknight dinner routine.

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An Easy Winter Cocktail Featuring Sugar Island Spiced Rum

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Having Monday off thanks to the snow was such a dream. I read two books and started a third, cooked a healthy dinner (Brussels sprouts from the farmer’s market + Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocci with vodka sauce + roasted corn), and got to try out this new cocktail recipe (which I’ll hardly call a recipe because it’s so darn easy!).

(A quick note: a wonderful PR company that I work with for the blog kindly sent over a bottle of the rum for me to try, but all reviews are my own!).

I usually just set out wine when I entertain at home and would love to be better at cocktail making, so I’m always happy to try new spirits and mixers. Sugar Island Rum is full of caramel and vanilla flavors, as well as a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove (what better combo for winter?) and is said to be similar to Captain Morgan spiced rum. I wasn’t sure what kind of cocktail I wanted to whip up, but I know that rum and ginger beer go great together (who doesn’t love a dark and stormy?), and since I keep spotting ginger beer at Trader Joe’s, I figured I’d pick up a pack of it. FYI- ginger beer is nonalcoholic and is a great drink on its own if you’re doing dry January or just trying to cut back on alcohol!

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To create this super yummy dark and stormy variation, all you need to do is fill a glass halfway with ginger beer (one bottle was enough for two people–my roommate tried the cocktail, too!) and then top it off with a shot glass portion of rum. Then, just stir everything together and add a squeeze of lemon or lime to your liking (I happen to love adding lime to drinks, alcoholic or not), and that’s it! Super easy and delicious and perfect for this time of year.

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What’s your favorite rum based drink, and what are your go-to cocktails to make at home?

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A Festive Tea Drink That’s Easy to Make

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As I mentioned the other day, I fell in love with this delicious Sparkling Antioxidant Tea drink while eating dinner at True Food Kitchen last weekend, and the best part was that I knew it would be simple to make at home (though theirs still rivals this one!). Everything you need can be found at the grocery store (I went to Trader Joe’s, but other stores will have similar variants of these things), and the drink is the perfect (non-alcoholic) alternative to your usual cocktail if you’re looking to dial things back a bit in between holiday gatherings. Looking for a similar recipe with alcohol? Check out Katie’s pomegranate spritzer!

To make this delicious drink, all I did was mix half a glass of this pomegranate green tea with some of TJ’s grapefruit seltzer. I then added a squeeze of lemon (you can add more to your liking), stirred, and topped it all off with a cute straw. Cheers!

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An Easy, Delicious, and Healthy Dinner for Under $5

…this dinner is so much more than the title suggests. In addition to being easy, cheap (it’s like $3 per serving!), and healthy, it’s also filling, fast to make, delicious, and will guarantee you leftovers for lunch the next day. Perfection, right? What it’s not? Photogenic (hence the one icky-looking photo in this post…sorry, don’t gag, I promise it’s yummy!).

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I made up this dinner on a whim a few weeks ago and have been whipping it several times since because it’s just that good. You guys know I’m not a cook in the slightest. Cooking doesn’t bring me joy, it just makes me feel impatient and hangry…I hate the idea of putting in a ton of work to create something that will only get destroyed (well, I guess enjoyed is a better word, but it’ll literally get chopped into pieces) within an hour. However, I make an effort to make most of my meals at home, especially for dinner, so I had to find something that would work for me. (My coworkers and I constantly talk about whether we’re people who prefer spending money on food over everything else or feel the complete opposite…you can guess which side I’m on).

While browsing Trader Joe’s website/Instagram one Sunday (yes, I really do this to get grocery inspiration #dontjudge), I learned about their corn and quinoa salad that I’d somehow passed by on previous shopping trips. I picked it up later that day and ate a few bites of it plain because my weekend eating habits are always out of whack and I’ll realize at 2 pm that all I’ve had all day is like, an English muffin with peanut butter and a few pieces of chocolate (#balance).

Image via Trader Joe's
Image via Trader Joe’s

The salad is super good on its own, trust me–and as Trader Joe’s says“This wouldn’t be Mexican Style Corn & Quinoa Salad if it didn’t contain a healthy amount of Mexican style corn. But we go beyond the corn here. Brightly colored layers of grape tomatoes, kale, red & green cabbage, and a mixture of white quinoa and brown rice accompany the corn. It’s made complete by a fresh lime wedge and a packet of roasted poblano cilantro dressing that recreates the delicious crema you’d find on elote and esquites. When all contents are emptied into a bowl and mixed together, you’ve got a salad that’s sweet, fresh, and flavorful.” 

I mean, YUM!

That night, I decided that the corn would go really well with black beans (hello, DIY burrito bowl), and this dish was born! All you need to do is grab a frying pan, add some of the corn and quinoa salad, throw in some canned black beans (a can of black beans is seriously like 79 cents, so I always have a ton of them on hand in my cupboard), and add in some taco seasoning (you’ll probably only go through about an eighth of the packet, so just grab a chip clip and save the rest for next time), and stir everything together on medium heat. Place everything in a bowl and top with fresh avocado, or the cilantro dressing that comes with the , or some hot sauce…whatever you’re feeling at the moment. Then sit down and enjoy! The whole thing takes less than five minutes to prepare–faster than the time it would take you to pick up takeout!

This dish is packed with protein, tastes like your favorite Mexican food (which I could eat every day), and is vegetarian-friendly…what more could you want? I’ve enjoyed bringing leftovers to lunch at work, which has been a nice alternative to my usual sandwiches.

What are your favorite easy healthy dinners? (And let me know if you make this one!).

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Bar Cart Updates

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For as much as I love to decorate, it’s rare that I change up things like my bar cart super often. Once I find a layout that works, I’ll often just leave it for ages. But the other week, I was inspired to switch things up a bit, since the area had gotten way too full with various glasses, coasters, and accessories. I decided to streamline everything a bit, set out some of my favorite food and drink-related books, and put only my favorite glassware of the moment on display.

My bar cart itself is from Miss Pixie’s, which is right on 14th Street in DC. I’m lucky enough that it’s right in the neighborhood, but it’s also a bit dangerous, because I stop in there way too often! I found this cart when I was coming home from work on day last fall and decided to stop in for a quick look around the store. I saw that the bar cart had just arrived in that day and fell in love with the gold bamboo details. When I realized it was priced at only $70, I knew I had to scoop it up!

As for a little tour of my bar area…

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The Gin & Tonic print is from Society6, which is hands down my favorite place to order wall art. They’re also pretty much always offering promotions of some sort. The gold bamboo frame was actually a Goodwill find, and a lot of my bar accessories (like the pineapples and the shaker) are from TJMaxx. The rest is pretty much all thrifted!

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This glassware is actually displayed on a dresser in our living room, and I love the look. Thrift stores are some of my favorite places to pick up glassware, because you can find so many vintage looking styles, and there actually are usually a decent amount of sets/pairs available.

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Exploring the Bloomingdale Neighborhood of Washington, DC

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Happy Wednesday! If you were following along on my Instagram this past weekend, you may have noticed that I ventured over to the Bloomingdale neighborhood of DC to check out their farmer’s market (it’s open seasonally from 9-1) and try the highly recommended Big Bear Cafe. The verdict? I loved both, and everyone local needs to scoot on over there soon if they haven’t already!

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My Sunday was pretty much wide open when I woke up (aside from having plans to head home and see my family–including my new baby cousin–in the afternoon). I sometimes struggle when I don’t have concrete plans set out for the weekend. As much as I cherish my alone time, I sometimes feel “behind” or just boring when I don’t have things lined up to do. However, Sunday was a perfect example of how relaxing it can be to just have a free day to explore someplace new. After using my free birthday spin credit at Zengo Cycle (woohoo!), I decided to Uber Pool on over to Bloomingdale to catch the last half hour of their farmer’s market. Not gonna lie, I was largely tempted because of the adorable photos I’d seen of it on Instagram over the past several weeks!

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The farmer’s market was small and a little Gilmore Girls-like, with a singer, a few different stands, and tons of photo-worthy fruit. I was starving from my workout and had heard great things about Big Bear Cafe, so I decided I’d see what the fuss  was all about. I ordered a breakfast sandwich with delicious runny eggs (perfection!) and an iced coffee, and sat outside and people-watched. Part of my wished I had a book with me, but it was also super calming to just sit at my table and pretend I was at a little cafe in Europe (I was texting pictures of the leafy outdoor space to my mom and sister, and they immediately were jealous!).

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Other than this mini adventure, I honestly hadn’t spent much time in Bloomingdale before, so I’m glad I decided to pop on over. My roommate and I had actually looked at one apartment unit in the area, but I don’t know if we would’ve loved the location in the long run (busy street far away from public transportation). So while I remain biased toward Dupont/Logan Circle in terms of where I’d rather live full time, I absolutely love that DC has so many fun, unique neighborhoods (each with their own strong fan base!).

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Next up, I NEED to finally check out the Red Hen in Bloomingdale. It’s an adorable Italian restaurant with hard-to-snag reservations, and I keep only finding openings at times that don’t work super well for me…however, their pasta looks amazing, so I’ll have to make it a priority soon!

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Instagrammable Eats in Ann Arbor, Michigan

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I recently crossed a new state off my list–Michigan (ok, I don’t know if it was really on my list, but a lot of my classmates from high school applied to or attended the University of Michigan, so I’d always been curious to see what the hype was about!).

Last week, I was in Ann Arbor for four days attending a work conference at the University of Michigan, but the downtown location made it easy to explore the city, too. The campus itself was beautiful but I didn’t see much of it aside from the building where the sessions were held. However, I honestly think I would be fine being a student there based on the little that I did see–and because of the amazing food and shopping located right nearby! The food posts I shared from my trip were super popular, and for good reason–Ann Arbor has some great eats that are also super Instagrammable…what more could one want?!

First up was a cute little macaron shop (Le Bon Macaron) I found while exploring the first day I arrived. The macarons (pictured above) were $2 a piece, which is pretty common but still not super ideal, though they were worth it. I picked up a honey lavender and strawberry champagne and spent the first five minutes photographing the shop (but can you blame me? It was adorable with its exposed brick, chandeliers, and marble tabletops!). The macarons were delicious and when I told my coworker about them at lunch, one of the hostesses quickly recommended another place that we had to try, called TeaHaus. Needless to say, we sprinted on over there even after feeling stuffed from our delicious meal at Sava’s–we went back later on during the week because it was that good!

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The TeaHaus macarons were huge, well-priced ($2.50 each for a gigantic size), and so creative–I loved the floral design some of them had! I also had to get a vanilla rose one, which was amazing.

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Later in the afternoon, I had some free time before an evening dinner event and made my way over to Fred’s, an adorable tea/coffee shop by our hotel. The flamingo mural and plant wall were enough to get me in the door, but their iced tea was great as well!

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The Ann Arbor art fair was happening the week we were in town, so between browsing the various booths (I picked up some gorgeous mudcloth blankets that I’ll have to showcase on the blog at some point), we stopped into Sava’s again for cocktails and dinner. Having ordered a turkey burger with tons of toppings the first time, I opted for something a bit healthier and tried their “hippie bowl” (basically a grain/greens bowl with amazing veggies) with a black bean burger on top. I honestly have been dreaming about it for days! The drinks they offered were super Instagrammable and delish–I got frozen rosé (obviously!), and my coworkers picked out some summery cocktails that also looked amazing and were a perfect way to celebrate wrapping up the week.

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Current Trader Joe’s Faves

I was browsing Apartment Therapy the other day and came across this article about what it’s like to live two blocks from Trader Joe’s and could totally relate–I love having one super close to my current apartment! In New York, I would take the subway and bus across town and back just to be able to stock my kitchen with delicious, cheap groceries. In Philly, there was a TJ’s that was a quick Uber ride away, but I didn’t get over there as often due to my lack of time and the cost involved in getting there. Last year in DC, I’d visit the West End location every now and then, but now, having a Trader Joe’s just a few blocks away from my new place has been a game changer.

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Lots of other bloggers I follow have shared their TJ’s must haves, although I’d say that mine tend to change each time I go, so I don’t know if I really have a reliable “list” to post on here! I’ve been trying a lot more of the frozen items while still stocking up on things like peanut butter pretzels (so good), a four-pack of Simpler Wines (so cheap and perfect to have on hand when friends come over), and practical things like yogurt and mini avocados (the best!).

I’ve learned over time that just because something is sold at TJ’s doesn’t mean it’s healthy, though. The salads always looked amazing until I started looking at the nutrition information on the back of the packaging–yikes! Obviously they’re worse for you when you include all of the dressing, but they still aren’t that great if you’re trying to be health conscious! Some of the frozen dinners are even more dangerous and are packed with fat and sodium. I believe in “everything in moderation” most of the time, but I can’t get myself to pick up some of these items, no matter how good they look and how affordable they are!

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That said, I’ve found lots of delicious alternatives that allow me to compromise a bit. The other day, I picked up a package of the “bambino” pepperoni pizzas, which are perfect for when you need to satisfy a craving but don’t want to heat up or order a whole pizza for yourself. The cold brew latte popsicles are also great to have on hand–they’re only 40 CALORIES a pop (ha!) which I think is so crazy considering how creamy and delicious they are, but hey, I’m not gonna question it! I also love the TJ’s version of Pirate’s Booty, which comes in both a traditional cheddar flavor as well as a sour cream and onion one.

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And back to the mini avocados…they’re the perfect size for a serving for one, and they’re great for my avocado toast habit. My blog friend Colby introduced me to the whole grain crispbread that TJ’s sells (there’s both a regular and a gluten free version) and combined with avocado and Everything but the Bagel spice (another must buy!), they’re AMAZING.

What are your favorite TJ’s items? I’m always looking for more to add to my list! PS- I’ve noticed that TJ’s recently started selling Nespresso pods–a game changer for those of you that own machines! Unfortunately, the machine I have takes the larger (Vertuoline) capsules, so I can’t buy these, but definitely try to snag a few if you go through the little ones religiously!

All images via traderjoes.com 

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Instagrammable Things to Eat and Drink in NYC

I’ll begin this post by saying that I’m not a foodie. A friend of mine works in the restaurant industry and was recently asking me all of these questions about his pop-up and how much he should charge and I was basically useless. Do I like fun, Instagrammable places that happen to be tasty? Yes. But do I enjoy spending money on food, going out to nice dinners, cooking, or even paying $10 for a work lunch? No way. However, when I’m traveling, I’m always eager to check out local places, try the food that everyone is raving about (or let’s be real…Instagramming), etc, even if it’s a little overpriced. When I was in NYC a couple of weeks ago, I hit several of my favorite spots as well as some new finds that I’ll definitely be going back to next time!

Ess-a-Bagel: I sadly didn’t take a picture of my bagel, but that was probably because I was too busy wolfing it down. If you’re one of those people who refuses to eat bagels most of the time because they’re just so darn bad for you, I totally get you, but you HAVE to make an exception for this place. When I worked at Meredith (which was home to American Baby), Ess-a-Bagel was right down the street and we’d get it catered in our office every Wednesday (my goodness, I miss that!). I would always have either a 9 grain bagel with veggie cream cheese or a cinnamon raisin bagel with veggie cream cheese (I know that sounds disgusting, but I like both of those flavors and pairing them is surprisingly good) and eat it at my desk before banishing myself from carbs for the rest of the day, haha. The crazy thing is that I had no idea that this bagel place was so popular because I’d either eat their bagels in the office or snag a mini bagel on my way home from dropping off papers at my boss’s townhouse–I swear my NYC life was basically a hybrid of Younger and The Bold Type ;). So I was shocked when I visited Ess-a-Bagel on a Saturday morning a few months ago and was greeted with a line that wrapped around the block! I didn’t want to wait for 30-plus minutes, but an employee mentioned that there’s an “express line” where you can go inside and order a bagel (not toasted) and a side of cream cheese and assemble everything yourself. I did this both then and this past time in NYC because even on a Friday, the line was outrageous! However, their bagels are so, so worth it!

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Milk and Cream: I kept describing this place to the friends I was visiting who thought I was referring to Milk Bar and kept getting frustrated trying to correct people–it’s a similar concept, but Milk and Cream is its own store in the West Village and has both adorable decor and AMAZING ice cream. I’ll admit that I ordered mine because I thought it was cute, but OMG, it was so worth every bite. I got the cookie dough ice cream with Cinnamon Toast Crunch mixed in and Teddy Grahams on top, and whoa, it was delish! They have countless other toppings and mix-ins, so it’s easy to change it up the next time.

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Bar Primi: I made reservations for a group of us on Friday night at Bar Primi, and it’s the cutest little Italian restaurant with famous frose (I think I first heard about the concept of frose after seeing a pic from this place), and great pasta. (Thank goodness for walking 18,000-ish steps in NYC, because all of the food there is so tempting!). We started with a delicious cheese plate that we split as a table and then got perfectly-sized bowls of pasta.

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ByChloe: I’m obsessed with ByChloe and actually ate there twice during my most recent visit, which isn’t uncommon for me to do when I’m up! While everything served is technically vegan, this isn’t your typical crunchy, hippie place…rather, when it comes to the demographic, it’s basically the restaurant version of SoulCycle. I almost always get the quinoa taco salad (which I ate two days in a row!) but have also tried and loved the avocado toast, and my friend Molly got the mac and cheese and really liked it as well. It’s definitely worth a visit, just note that lines can be long during lunch, since it’s a popular grab and go place, too.

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The Honeywell: My friend Austin and I trekked all the way up to 145th Street to get drinks at this spot, which she had been to last summer when looking at an apartment. She told all of our friends about the awesome lava lamp drinks (some kind of cocktail served in a lava lamp shaped glass), and I’d been wanting to go there ever since! The drink was strong and cost $15, but it was definitely worth it for the portion and the overall experience of drinking out of a lava lamp–people kept asking me where I was when I Snapchatted them. (The bathroom also had gorgeous palm leaf wallpaper, but it was too dark in there to get a picture). We got some appetizers there for dinner before my train before getting another drink at Harlem Public next door. We wished that we’d waited to eat there, because they had a much better selection of food…next time!

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