Manhattan Special / Espresso Soda Float

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A few weeks ago while on my way home from Manhattan, I texted Jim and asked him if he wanted me to pick him up anything before I came home.

His response: "Swing by Anthony and Son's and get me a Manhattan Special".

I had no clue what the hell is a Manhattan Special was.  I thought it was a sandwich.

Ends up being it's this really amazing espresso soda carried at the Italian grocers in our neighborhood.  It's actually made and bottled in a small factory in our very neighborhood, only a few short blocks away from our apartment.

Jim explained this all to me and I stopped quick to pick some up for him.  Then I proceeded to drink half the bottle when I got home, it was so tasty!  It also was so caffeinated, it's made with real espresso after all.

"Oh my god, you know what this needs?!" my caffeinated self told him while buzzing around the apartment, finishing off the bottle.  "It totally needs ice cream!  This would make the best float ever!"

So the next time I picked up some Manhattan Special I also picked up a tub of my favorite vegan vanilla ice cream and made myself a float.  Easiest recipe ever.

First, buy yo'self some Manhattan Special.

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Then in a large glass, scoop two to three scoops of your favorite vanilla or chocolate ice cream.  Vegan or non-vegan ice creams all work here folks.  Then top off with the Manhattan Special.

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Just like a traditional float, you'll have to add the soda little by little to avoid it from spilling over.

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Once the glass if full and the ice cream has floated to the top, insert your straw, grab a spoon and enjoy!

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Have you ever had a Manhattan Special?

Travel Diary / Brazil

P1050828.jpg My job is kinda awesome. This past February, I had to go to South America on a business trip.  The catch is, it was considered an "incentive" trip, which means the trip was more play than work.  I wish every day at work was like this!  I swear my job really is not usually this glamorous.  This trip was an exception. Our accommodations for the entire trip was on a small cruise ship that only had members associated with this incentive trip on it.  So it was super exclusive, and a fantastic way to get to network and get to know our colleagues in a more casual setting.  Being the ship is so small, the service was incredible.  Not to brag, but I had a butler and every morning he brought me these gluten-free, vegan buckwheat pancakes and tea for breakfast.  I had a hard time adjusting when I got home after being doted on like this for seven days. P1050879.jpg My room was also a suite,  with a balcony! P1050839.jpg Our ship departed from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, so we got to spend a few days there.  What an incredible city!  It had just as much hustle and bustle as New York does.  But the weather is way, way nicer.  Plus they had beaches.  Rio wins. We only really had a day and a night there, so I was pretty limited in what I could go do and experience.  My favorite was taking a cable car up to the top of Sugarloaf mountain.  The views at the top were spectacular! P1050843.jpg P1050847.jpg P1050864.jpg Here's the view without my goofy face blocking it. Isn't it spectacular?! Believe it or not the photo barely does it any justice. P1050871.jpg Later that evening we went as a group to see a samba show.  To be honest, the show was really awful.  I think we got stuck  in a tourist trap.  The caipirinha's were disgusting (I've had better ones in the States) but they did the job and made the show halfway enjoyable.  There was this one act that had this Michael Jackson wannabe who shook his head like he was epileptic.  He was the highlight of the show but for all the wrong reasons.  The costumes however were insane! P1050830.jpg After Rio we set sail for a quick stop in Paraty.  For that day's excursion I opted for a catamaran booze cruise that stopped at several lagoons where you could swim and go to the beach. Best day at work, ever. Paraty is very remote.  One of the locals told us due to the roads it would be over an 8 hour ride by bus back to Rio!  It's not very often you get to swim and enjoy the sun with such untouched beauty all around you.  It was the best way to spend the day and see the best sights Paraty had to offer. P1050880.jpg After swimming the day away and working hard, it was then time to head back to the ship and onto the next country on our journey. P1050881.jpg Stay tuned next week for my travel diary from the country with the best shopping on this trip: Uruguay!

French 5 Piece Wardrobe / Spring 2014 Update

French 5 Piece Wardrobe Spring 2014

My post earlier this year on my French 5 Piece Wardrobe experiment has gotten a lot of interest due to it going viral on Pinterest, so I figured I'd let everyone know how it's going so far.

I think I'm pretty well set for spring of 2014, though several of the items I got are basics so I may or may not replace it with another item if I come across something I absolutely love.

Here's my five so far for spring/summer:

  1. A pair of birkenstock like sandals.  Mine are from Zara and I love that they are a more minimal take on the trend.  I had said earlier I wanted a sandal that followed a trend and these were perfect.
  2. Two new bikini's (I'm counting these as one purchase).  My old ones were busted and I really needed new ones for this spring and summer.  I went with leopard and black so I can mix and mach them.
  3. A pair of leopard track pants.  I bought these while in South America this past February.  They were in the window and I just HAD to have them.  I haven't gotten to wear them just yet, but once it gets warmer out I'll be living in these.
  4. A new trench coat.  I've been wanting a classic style one for a long time, so I finally found this Zara one on eBay and bit the bullet.  This is a basic though so I won't limit myself and may replace it with something else.
  5. Plain, mid-heeled boots.  These were more of a winter purchase though I knew they'd get me into spring.  I've worn these almost daily since I got them in February.  They literally go with everything!  I may purchase a second pair just so I have them for one the current ones wear out.  These are also a basic, so I may not include these as part of my current 5 come summer.

I also followed through on my quest for a minimalist wardrobe, and succeeded to whittling down my closet to only 60 pieces.  I'm not joking.  My goal was 50 pieces but 60 is where I got to and I'm happy with that.  This number doesn't include PJ's, unmentionables or work out clothing but does include everything else.  To be honest I absolutely love my new closet.  It's way easier to get dressed in the morning having less choices believe it or not.  It's also made me be more creative with how I layer and pair what I have.

After living with the new 60 piece wardrobe for the past few months I think I may have a need for more loose, breezy summer dresses.  Most of what I have are bodycon which is the last thing I want to wear when it's hot out.  So I may replace my trench or boots in this round-up with two new dresses.  I have time to decide on them though.  I also think I may start looking for some delicate, minimalist jewelry pieces.  Luckily jewelry and accessories doesn't count on this method so that should tide me over on my shopping fixes.

All in all so far this method has really made me reconsider how I shop.  I'm much more mindful of my purchases.  Since I only get 5 every 6 months, I need to be sure what I get will go with everything in my closet.  So it's eliminated impulse purchases.  Because of this I've also been able to splurge on more expensive, higher quality items because I'm not impulsively shopping all the time.  I love it!

Stay tuned for my French 5 Piece Wardrobe summer update in the next few months.  I'll keep you posted on where I'm at.

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Brunch at The Butcher’s Daughter

IMG_5485.jpg This weekend I met some friends at the Butcher's Daughter in the Lower East Side to catch up and have some brunch.  The place had been on all of our "must try but my husband won't go" lists so we figured it was the perfect choice for a girl's outing. IMG_5481.jpg IMG_5487.jpg While The Butcher's Daughter is by their own definition a vegetarian establishment, it's fully dairy-free and has lots of  vegan and gluten-free options. According to their website:

The Butcher’s Daughter is a new juice bar, cafe and “vegetable slaughter house”.

As a human race, it is becoming more and more obvious that our diet – and the way we eat – is changing: Meat is moving off center-stage and the spotlight is turning to fresh fruits and vegetables. At The Butcher’s Daughter, we treat fruits and vegetables as a butcher would meat: We chop, fillet and carve fresh produce into heathy vegetarian dishes and press them into pretty juices. ...We take pride in our daily-changing menu, which is 100% vegetarian and non-dairy. Most of our menu items are vegan and gluten-free, and we can always prepare substitutions for most dietary restrictions.  
We couldn't have had a better day weather wise to try it. The temperature actually hit 80 that day and sidewalk seating was available, making it my first sidewalk cafe meal of the spring and summer season.  Spring is finally officially here!   IMG_5488.jpg The menu had so many items I could actually have!  It was like heaven for me. IMG_5495.jpg To drink I settled on their Strawberry Blond juice spritzer.  It had strawberry and blood orange juices paired with basil and topped off with soda.  It was so refreshing and I'm probably going to try to concoct a copycat version at home. IMG_5497.jpg As my entrée, I had no choice but to try their Spicy Kale Caesar Salad.  A friend of mine on Instagram posted a photo of it the day prior and it looked so delicious it was all I could think about until I arrived at the restaurant that day.  The kale was dressed with a creamy vegan caesar dressing and topped with croutons, avocado, almond parmesan, and the most amazing crispy shallots ever.  I'm kind of obsessed with crispy shallots now, I want to put them on everything! IMG_5501.jpg Not shown but equally yummy was a side of their gluten-free toast and cashew cheddar cheese.  I'm counting the days until I can head back and try some additional items on the menu. Have you ever been to the Butcher's Daughter?  If so what was your favorite dish?  I need some ideas to try for next time I go!

Win an Eco-Friendly Birkin Inspired Bag from The Underground Chic / Closed

The Underground Chic Ginny Bag- Giveaway   The Hermès Birkin bag is one of the most iconic bags in fashion. Named after actress Jane Birkin, each one is handmade and in limited production. Because of the scarcity, they range in price from $7,500 to over $150,000! That's not the only issue with Birkins, they're also almost exclusively made up of exotic animal skins. Calf leather, ostrich, crocodile and lizard are just a few of the varieties them come in. Even if they were more affordable, they are by no means a compassionate choice when it comes to choosing a handbag.   The Underground Chic Ginny Bag- Giveaway   If you'd prefer your Birkin to be less expensive and made of vegan, eco-friendly, recycled plastic bottles then check out The Underground Chic.   The Underground Chic Ginny Bag- Giveaway   At first glance, Underground Chic bags look like real leather with metal hardware; however upon closer examination, you will see that their 100% RPET handbags have a crisp, trompe l'oeil image of a Birkin printed on the bag.  It may trick your eye, but it'll please your wallet since their bags retail between $28 - $119.   The Underground Chic Ginny Bag- Giveaway   Today The Underground Chic is giving away a cobalt blue Ginny bag valued at $119 to one lucky Brooklyn Bliss reader.   To enter to win, either comment, follow, pin or tweet via the instructions below. Giveaway valid for US residents only.   a Rafflecopter giveaway   Financial compensation was not received for this post.  A sample product was gifted from The Underground Chic.

The Easiest Way to Pack Your Lunch

Bentgo Bento Box My office for work is located in a food dead zone. Located in the middle of a huge warehouse district in South Brooklyn,  the closest place to grab a bite to eat is Wendy's down the street.  Besides that, there's pretty much zero other options besides an occasional Dunkin Donuts and traditional Brooklyn pizza shops.  Nothing is healthy, and being vegan only further complicates things. We also have no onsite vending machines of any kind.  Or coffee makers.  The closest things we get to either is what we lovingly refer to as the "roach coach", otherwise known as the coffee truck.  It arrives without fail at 10 am every day to serve bitterly burnt coffee and bags of chips so tiny they'd barely satiate a child.  As a result, I've been more or less forced to learn to get really efficient at brown-bagging my lunch. My solution to make packing both my lunch and snacks a breeze?  The bento.   Bentgo Bento Box Bentos are single portion, home cooked meals which are common in Japanese cuisine.  They're packed into tiny boxes and feature a healthy, well-rounded meal meant to be eaten at room temperature. When I first learned about bentos, I purchased some traditional Japanese ones from a Japanese vendor.  The size of the box is supposed to correspond to the number of calories you should eat at your meal.  While this method is a great way to execute portion control, I had a few issues with these style boxes:
  1. They work best for traditional Japanese foods.  Rice, a protein (meat or fish usually) and some cooked or pickled vegetables usually round out traditional bentos.  Only issue with this is I'm American and don't make Japanese style food all the time.  It was difficult to fit sandwiches and other types of cuisine into these boxes.
  2. I don't always like to eat room temperature food,  And not all Japanese bentos are microwave safe.
  3. No room for snacks.  I'm gone all day, and needed a bit more space for at least two sets of snacks.
  4. No place to keep utensils.  On Japanese boxes, if there is a space built in it's almost always for chopsticks.  That then takes me back to bullet point #1.
  5. They aren't leak proof.  A traditional Japanese bento has sauces packed separately.  While the containers they use for them are super adorable, they're a pain to clean.  Plus I'm lazy.  I needed something I could pour a sauce on and not have the box leak.
Bentgo Bento Box After trying several different types of boxes over the years, I finally found my favorite one.  It's called the Bentgo and it's available on Amazon.  It solves all the issues I had with my previous boxes including:
  • It's a larger size, which is more appropriate for American portions but still small enough you can toss it in your purse or tote bag.
  • It's microwave safe.
  • Top box has space for two snacks.
  • Standard utensils are included and built into the leak-proof packaging.
They also come in adorable colors, and are inexpensive!  If you're interested in purchasing a Bentgo you can get them here. Bentgo Bento Box Now that I found the perfect vessel to pack my meals for the day, the actual packing part is a breeze.  All I do is either pack dinner leftovers or a sandwich in the main container, and my pre-planned snack options for the week in the divided one.  I usually try to keep my snacks to a sweet one for the morning with my coffee, and savory for the afternoon. Here's some examples:

Lunch Options

  • Leftover pasta
  • Leftover curry, stir fry or other ethnic foods and a grain, like rice or quinoa
  • Leftover stews (soups or anything too liquidy doesn't work in this container)
  • A sandwich
  • A salad (pasta and grain salads work great in bentos!)
  • Clean-out the fridge leftovers (like shown below, pesto shells, lemon tofu and green beans)

Snack Options

  • Fresh fruit and nuts
  • Hummus and cut veggies or crackers
  • Rice cakes with toppings like almond butter and jam, or guac and radishes
  • Baked goods like banana bread or muffins
The possibilities are only limited to your imagination. Bentgo Bento Box Packing my bento each night and eating it the next day always makes me smile.  They make your food seem so much prettier and appealing.  Sure beats a sad looking sandwich in a ziplock. Do you brown-bag it to work each day? This post is not sponsored by Bentgo.  I just really like their product.

The Past Few Months / According to Instagram

Over the last few months I've had a pretty severe case of blogger burnout.  A lot had to do with not wanting to go outside during this awful, cold winter and just wanting to watch movies under a fuzzy blanket surrounded by my fuzzy animals.  Now that things are finally thawing out, I once again feel human and am ready to come out of hibernation! So to catch you up here's what I've been up to the last two months, according to Instagram. This is the EXACT spot Jim and I first laid eyes on each other 14 years ago. ❤

We Went to Baltimore

In March Jim and I spent a weekend in the city where we first met. We got to visit with friends and celebrate their wedding, as well as roam around retracing our steps from early in our relationship. We visited our alma mater, drove by all our old apartments, and even got this very special photo at the exact spot we first saw each other 14 years ago. This vegan frittata was so freaking yummy I'm still thinking of it.

I've Been Cooking ... a Lot

This year we set an intention to try to order out less and cook more of our own food at home, which I've been loving.  To try to keep things interesting, I've been stocking up on new cookbooks and trying to plan a new recipe for each day of the week.  I've found a few good ones as well as have been sent some to review, so I'll be posting more about that soon.

I was tired of my giant TV taking over our tiny living room so I arranged a gallery wall around it. Totally obsessed with it now!

We've Been Improving Our Apartment

Being holed up in our apartment all winter amplified all the little things that annoyed the crap out of us.  So we've been working with what we've got and re-styling our place to make it more homey.  My favorite so far is my new gallery wall, which de-emphasizes our massive TV.  Also frustrated we were never eating in our kitchen due to our tiny dining table, we replaced it with a new larger one and some awesome mid-century chairs scored on craigslist for a song. This morning Jim surprised me with some Easter flowers, which he put in an old Brooklyn Gin bottle. He's so creative! ❤️him!

Two Words: Spring Cleaning

Being holed up in our apartment all winter also made it apparent how disgusting certain corners of it was.  Once it got warm enough, all the windows were opened and we got down and dirty getting rid of the grime. Just had sunchokes and fiddlehead ferns for the first time. This chef's choice #vegan plate at Rose Water in Park Slope was delish.

Trying New Things

I had sunchokes and fiddlehead ferns for the first time ever.  Kind of addicted now. What have you been up to the past two months?  Catch me up, I'd love to hear!

How to Impress Your Vegan Valentine

How to Impress Your Vegan Valentine Valentine's Day is right around the corner. This year don't wait until the last minute to plan something special for your vegan sweetie. If you want to impress your vegan valentine, here's some of my top picks on vegan friendly romantic date and gift ideas in the New York City area.

Date Ideas

Pure Food and Wine

Pure Food and Wine Say you don't like raw food? Pure Food & Wine will impress die-hard carnivores as well as vegans like me who usually like their food cooked. With their stellar cuisine, extensive wine list and candle-lit ambiance, it's the perfect location to bring your valentine for a romantic dinner out.

Candle 79

Candle 79Photo: Mimi Giboin A vegan fine dining establishment in the Upper East Side, Candle 79's creative dishes and numerous wine choices make this spot a must visit for a date night, valentine's day or any day.

Blossom

Blossom NYC

One of my favorite restaurants in NYC, you can't go wrong with Blossom. With four locations ranging from the West Village all the way up to the Upper East Side, not only is the food to die for, the ambiance is quiet and candle lit. The Chelsea location is in the most romantic turn-of the century building, and if you reserve your table in advance you may have a chance to get one of their private, blocked off tables for two in their window. I can't think of a more romantic way to spend the evening than watching over the wintry NYC street scene while enjoying a romantic meal with your valentine.

Gift and Treat Ideas

Sweet & Sara Sweet & Sara

Marshmallows are not very vegan friendly, which makes me sad. Luckily Sweet & Sara, based in Long Island City, figured out how to veganize them and they make a variety of marshmallow based treats, from s'mores to rice crispy treats! You can find them in various stores throughout the city, or can order them direct from their website.

Dunwell Donuts

Dunwell Donuts

Dunwell Donuts has some of the best donuts in the city, nevermind vegan donuts. With fancy pants flavors like Chai Tea and Creme Brule, these sweet treats will bring a smile to your valentine's face, especially if you get him or her a dozen.

Babycakes

Babycakes Bakery Photo by Rachel Heller

Does your vegan valentine have any food allergies? If so, thanks to Babycakes that's no excuse why they shouldn't be allowed to have a sweet valentine's day treat! Babycakes Bakery on the Lower East Side offers gluten, dairy, egg and refined sugar-free cupcakes, cookies, donuts and even a Valentine's Day Candy Gram. Oh, and their icing is to die for!

Vaute Couture Apparel and Accessories

Vaute Couture

Thinking of getting your vegan valentine some jewelry? Vaute Couture in Williamsburg offers necklaces, sunglasses, and tees fit for the animal activist in your life. This V Necklace is currently at the top of my valentine's day wish list. Whatever you decide to do for your vegan valentine this year, don't forget... kisses are free! Free Kisses Pit Bull On another note, congratulations to Terry for winning the Anjolee Gemstone Pendant Giveaway!

Giveaway / Anjolee Jewelry CLOSED

In keeping with February's Valentine's Day spirit, today Anjolee Jewelry is giving one lucky Brooklyn Bliss reader a beautiful, minimal gemstone solitaire pendant.  It's the perfect, classic piece to wear again and again.  The winner gets to choose either topaz, citrine, garnet or amethyst as their gemstone option. If a diamond pendant more your thing, Anjolee makes them in that stone as well.  They also have some really beautiful custom jewelery worth checking out.  All their pieces would make beautiful Valentine's Day gifts for that special someone in your life. Anjolee To enter to win, either comment, follow, or tweet via the instructions below.  Giveaway valid for US and Canadian residents only. a Rafflecopter giveaway Giveaway ends at 12:00 am on February 10th, 2014.

What’s In My Carry On Bag

IMG_5470.jpg Today I figured I'd share with you quick what I pack in my carry on bag to keep me entertained and comfortable when I travel.  I'm currently all packed and ready to leave for South America tonight for work.  I'm pretty stoked! Clockwise from Top Left Corner // LAPTOP Macbook Air // LAPTOP CASE Baggu // TABLET Apple iPad 2 // TABLET CASE Matt & Nat // PHONE iPhone 4S // HEADPHONES standard iPhone ones // SUNGLASSES JustFab (old) // WATER BOTTLE Rubbermaid // Advil (you never know when a headache will strike!) // PORTABLE CHARGER Newtrent // LIPSTICK & LIPGLOSS 100% Pure and Dex NYC // FUZZY SOCKS H&M // SUNGLASSES CASE filled with charging cables // EYEMASK & INFLATABLE PILLOW Mujii // WALLET (looks like a clutch) Target // CAMERA Panasonic Lumix // TOTE BAG Cornelia Guest Nicholas

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