Charleston

charleston1When I turned thirty, two years ago, I realized I was able to accomplish my dream of traveling the world.  I hit so many places on my bucket list but I realized that I rarely traveled to US cities.  In particular, cities in the South. With friends and family scattered all across the US, I thought it was a great excuse to start discovering these cities and spend time with friends and family.  Killing two birds with one stone.  This year, I wanted to go to Charleston because I heard there is a huge food scene, the architecture is gorgeous, and my cousin lives there with his family.

I’ve only been to two other Southern cities before New Orleans and Austin.  What I loved about my experiences there were the Southern hospitality and the ease of everything.  The easy going pace of life is something that you won’t find much in New York.  Charleston is very much the same way.  Everyone including the man sitting next to me on the flight, our taxi driver, to the random man on the street chimed in on what I should do and wanted me to love their city just as much as they do.

When you walk through downtown Charleston, it looks like a movie set with streets lined with palm trees, bright pastel colored houses, and the perfectly manicured grounds.  It’s also an immaculately clean city for being so old and super quiet for being a major city.  I couldn’t believe how serene the city was.  My sister and I spent hours getting lost in the streets winding our way through looking at gorgeous homes which the majority of them had plaques saying that something major happened there.  I won’t go into the details here but A LOT of stuff happened there.

Let’s now talk about the food.  On any given weekend in the city, my go-to brunch places always have some kind of Southern flare.  I love eating eggs, grits and cheese, and biscuits.  Much to my delight, at most breakfast places in Charleston, grits and biscuits are staples.  My absolute favorite places for brunch were Hominy Grill and Poogan’s Porch for both the food and ambiance.  Dinner was more on the farm-to-table side.  We had an amazing 4 course meal at McCrady’s which for Charleston is on the fancier side.  I loved everything about Husk.  I loved walking into the big house and walking upstairs to our table.  I loved the food and that you knew where each and every ingredient was from, and I loved the ambiance of the place.  I have to admit, after 3 days of eating Southern food, I needed to eat Asian food.  When you walk up upper King Street, new and inventive restaurants are popping up everywhere.  We went to Xiao Bao Biscuit which is located in an old gas station.  The best way to describe the food is Asian fusion which sounds so cliché.  It was really good and a nice change from eating biscuits everyday.

If someone was to ask me what is the one thing you have to do when you’re in Charleston, it would be to see the Avenue of Oaks at Boone Hall Plantation.  Boone Hall is where Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds got married and is featured in the movie The Notebook.   We don’t have oak trees like that in the North East.  These trees are hundreds of years old and are magnificent to see in person.  My sister and I spent 3 hours at Boone Hall taking a tour of the house and grounds.  We learned a lot about what life was like on a plantation hundreds of years ago.  Even though the plantation is beautiful, there was a history of slavery there that you can’t ignore and that they do mention.  Boone Hall is still a working plantation today offering locals farm fresh produce.  Walking down the Avenue of Oaks takes your breath away and it’s a must do when you’re in Charleston.

Charleston was probably one of the prettiest cities I’ve ever been to.  It has everything you want in a great weekend, great food, beautiful sites and friendly locals.

charleston2{Charleston’s many colorful streets}

charleston3 {Hominy Grill}

charleston4 {Southern breakfast at Hominy Grill}

charleston5 {Bermuda-style colored houses}

charleston6 {Picturesque home}

charleston7 {Fort Sumter-Site of the start of the American civil war}

charleston8 {Husk restaurant}

charleston9 {Duck at Husk}

charleston10{Olive oil macaron at Christophe’s chocolatier}

charleston11{Charleston’s cobblestone streets}

charleston12 {Shrimp and grits at Poogan’s Porch}

charleston13 {Chicken and waffles at Poogan’s Porch}

charleston13 {Avenue of Oaks at Boone Hall Plantation}

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

Red Hook, BK Update

redhook1The first time I went to Red Hook, Brooklyn was in April 2012 before Hurricane Sandy (read here).  It was a part of Brooklyn that I had never been to and it was an up and coming neighborhood.  When I went in 2012, it felt like I was miles and miles away from the city like I was in a small seaside town.  Red Hook felt more spread out and deserted than Williamsburg or Brooklyn Heights but then you would see a huge Ikea and Fairway on waterfront property.  Space is something that Red Hook has that most neighborhoods in the city can’t afford.  Van Brunt, which is the main drag in Red hook, has enough restaurants, bakeries, and bars to lure in all the foodies from the city.  There’s more than meets the eye.

I heard that they have revitalized Red Hook and it’s better than ever.  I went last Saturday with my girlfriend Susie to check out the scene post Sandy.  I found out that there’s a free ferry that leaves every 50 minutes from Pier 11 on Wall Street to the Ikea in Red Hook on the weekends ($5 on weekdays).  I think traveling by ferry is the best way to get to the other boroughs because it’s usually the fastest way, there’s no traffic and you can enjoy the beautiful scenery.  We arrived at the Ikea dock and went straight to Brooklyn Crab for lunch.  The scene at Brooklyn Crab looks like you were transported to a seafood shack in a small seaside town.  There’s plenty of outdoor seating and corn hole, my absolute favorite outdoor game!

After lunch, we wandered along the waterfront and found some interesting things along the way like street art, Steve’s Key Lime Pie (relocated from their original location), Red Hook Lobster Pound, and Red Hook winery.  Susie and I LOVED Red Hook winery.  They grow their grapes in the North Fork in Long Island and Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes which Susie and I are familiar with since we’ve been to both places (read here and here) together.  The wines were all delicious and unique in their own way but the tasting room alone is worth visiting.  It’s that kind of place where you want to cozy up with all of your friends with a nice bottle of wine.  In my opinion, this is my kind of walking tour, finding art, eating lobster rolls and key lime pie and drinking some wine.  After a long day of gallivanting, we went to Ikea so that I could buy a lamp and then we were on the ferry back to Manhattan.

When we arrived at Pier 11, we truly felt like we went “away” for the day.  Even though the ferry ride is only 10 minutes, you feel like you’re in a completely different locale.  Red Hook offers a lot more than the other neighborhoods in Brooklyn.  I mostly appreciate the quirkiness about it and that it still feels like you’re walking through an abandoned neighborhood with hidden treasures along the way.

redhook2{The ferry}

redhook3{Brooklyn Crab}

redhook4{Seafood steam pot}

redhook5 {Outside decor}

redhook6{Red Hook winery}

redhook7 {The cozy area in Red Hook winery}

redhook8 {Steve’s Key Lime Pie new location}

redhook9 {Sunflowers on the street}

redhook10 {Maine style lobster roll at Red Hook Lobster Pound}

redhook11{View of the freedom tower}

redhook12{Ferry ride home}

Posted in NYC | Leave a comment

Beacon

beacon1There are so many quaint and interesting towns in the Hudson Valley that I’ve been meaning to visit.  This Summer, I decided to finally hit up some of these spots since they are so close to the city.  I’ve been recruiting my parents, sister, and friends who live in Rockland and Westchester to come with me on my buttercup adventures.  A couple of Saturdays ago, my mom and I went on a day trip to Beacon which is 1.5 hours from the city and 45 minutes from my parents’ house.  My girlfriend Marcella advised me that if I’m into art I should go to the Dia and then the Roundhouse at Beacon Falls for brunch.  I should also walk on Main Street and visit some of the galleries.  I thought art and brunch was right up our alley.

One thing I have to say about the Dia is that without knowing anything about the type of art that they display, you might walk in and say to yourself, what is this?  I did too until I remembered that it’s minimalist art and it’s all about perspectives.  We had the pleasure of speaking with Joann who explained some of the pieces to us and it opened up our minds to this type of art more so than when we walked in.  She asked us how we felt about the negative space.  Something that we might not have considered without her asking us.  I really appreciated that everyone who worked at the museum knew about the pieces and were not merely guards.  They also don’t allow photography because they want to keep the perspective of the piece to be experienced in the space of the Dia which I can appreciate. The Dia is a special place and like no other art museum you will ever visit.

After the museum, we had a picturesque brunch at the Roundhouse.  We sat on the patio outside where we had the most beautiful view of the waterfall.  The food was good but not mind blowing but we almost didn’t care because of the spectacular ambiance.  We had a long brunch and had ample mother and daughter bonding time.  We walked off our brunch on Main Street which was littered with galleries and odd ball shops.  We stopped by the Hudson Beach Glass shop where you can see them blowing the glass on site.

Beacon is becoming an artist’s mecca and a burgeoning foodie scene.  It’s still a little rough around the edges like how Williamsburg was 10 years ago but if you look closer, you will find hidden gems.  Take a day trip to Beacon for beautiful landscapes and for different perspectives.

beacon2{At the Dia Art Foundation}

beacon3{Walking to brunch}

beacon4{The Roundhouse}

beacon5 {Grilled octopus}

beacon6 {Tuna ceviche}

beacon8 {Our view during brunch}

beacon9 {Hudson Beach Glass}

beacon10 {Beacon street art}

beacon11

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

Summer Recap

summerrecap1Since Labor Day weekend is behind us, the unofficial end of Summer, I can’t help but reminisce about some of the memories I made this Summer.  For us New Yorkers we had such a brutal and long Winter, the Summer meant that much more for us.  I felt like everyone was on the same page which was to live-it-up.  It seemed like everyone was taking advantage of the mild Summer and I honestly have to say, it was one of the best Summers I’ve ever had.

I made a promise to myself to not travel internationally but to discover hidden gems in and around NY.  One huge advantage to this promise was that I got to discover these places with my friends, parents and sister.  It was pretty amazing the places we found just an hour away from our home base.  I just kept thinking, I’ve traveled 24 hours around the world to learn how to surf in Bali but I never considered learning in Montauk which is just 3 hours away.

I might not have had a fancy European haunt or increased my frequent flier miles but I have successfully accrued precious memories with my hometown friends and family.  That I would say is priceless.  I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to this unforgettable Summer but I am looking forward to Fall which is arguably the best time to be in the city.

summerrecap2

Posted in More | Leave a comment

5 Things Laura Loves

5things1 NYC. My City.

As Summer is winding down, I can’t help but feel grateful for all the wonderful opportunities I had to visit beautiful places, spend time with friends and family, and have probably one of my best Summers yet.  I’ve been having a blast and I can’t believe it’s almost over.  The one thing I am looking forward to is Fall in New York which is probably the best time to be here.  Crisp air, Fall foliage, apple cider and sweaters but for now there’s still one more week of Summer and there’s no better time than now to hit up your Summer bucket list.  These were the things I’ve been lovin’ this week.  Happy Weekend!

5things2Ombre Hydrangea

5things3SUP Yoga

5things4Beach essentials

5things5Communal tables at Rosemary’s in the West Village

Posted in 5 Things Laura Loves | Leave a comment

Sag Harbor

sagharbor1I really love the small town feel of Sag Harbor.  I’ve been going to Sag Harbor for about 14 years now with my girlfriends from college whose family has a house there.  Fourteen years ago, we would go out for a relaxing weekend to take a break from school.  It was the Hamptons before it was the “Hamptons” and before it became a destination.  Back then, we would go to the beach and cook at home we rarely ventured out.  I didn’t fully appreciate how wonderful Sag Harbor really was until this past weekend when my girlfriend Justine and I went to escape the city life.  What I love about staying at their family house is that you can walk to a private beach and it’s within walking distance to a couple of great eating spots.  We also found a marina where you can rent sail boats, kayaks, and stand up paddle boards.  The house is also special because it holds so many memories of us as young twenty-somethings.  This weekend was probably the best I’ve had all Summer.

We arrived late on Friday night, changed into jammies, drank red wine and ate brick oven pizza from Cappelletti’s and passed out.  That’s my kind of Friday night.  Saturday morning we woke up early, got green smoothies at Jimmy Jim’s, which is this cute deli in Sag Harbor, and spent all the day at the beach.  I mentioned frequently to Justine that even though Sag Harbor is not on the ocean side, it’s still so gorgeous.  There are all these smaller beaches with hardly anyone on them and all these nature preserves.  There is a special small town feeling you get when you’re here probably because there’s still old school delis, old buildings, and locals who have been living there for decades year round.  Of course this feeling fades really fast when you see the Kardashians flying by on a speed boat.  Well, I guess it was our one obligatory Kardashian sighting for the Summer.

Normally, I don’t like to go to restaurants that are “trendy” or hyped up especially in the Hamptons because you end up waiting hours for a table, spending way too much money, and you’re only buying into the “scene.”  Justine suggested we check out Tutto Il Giorno and I thought why not end the day with a nice meal?  We were originally supposed to wait an hour for a table but after getting a glass of wine at the bar, they seated us right away-score!  Don’t you love when that happens?  The meal was yummy.  Mind blowing-no but for the Hamptons, it was really good.  What I did love about the place was the ambiance.  I loved the airy-loft-like feel of the restaurant and the low-lit candle light, it was very romantic.  Sunday we started the morning off with a little stand up paddle board in the bay.  It was Justine’s first time and she couldn’t believe what a great workout it was.  We spent another heavenly afternoon at the beach but we were depressed because we had to drive back home.  I love weekends like these when it’s totally unplanned, chill, and relaxing.  I felt healthy and rested for the coming week.

Sag Harbor will always hold a special place in my heart.

sagharbor2sagharbor3sagharbor4

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

Weekend at The Shore

theshore1When a girl needs a quick beach getaway without having to make extensive plans in advance and traveling far to get to the destination, the Jersey Shore or “The Shore” like most locals know it, is the solution.  Most people have a stigma against the Shore probably because of all the reality TV shows but the shore that I’ve grown up to know has beautiful and peaceful beaches.  Last weekend, I went to Point Pleasant for the first time for a sisters weekend at the beach.  We rented a room from Rich and Carmen via Airbnb in their gorgeous house which was located on an inlet surrounded by water.  We were able to walk everywhere because the beach was only 3 blocks away and in close proximity to all the restaurants and the boardwalk.

When you only have a weekend at the beach, it’s more about the destination than the journey (this time around).  What I loved most about Point Pleasant was that it was only 1 hour and 30 minutes from Manhattan (plus thirty minutes of traffic).  Because we were able to walk everywhere we didn’t have to worry about parking and everyone who was there seemed to eat on the earlier side like around 6 pm – 7 pm which was great for us since we ate around 8 pm and we didn’t need a reservation anywhere.  The house was located in a sleepy area of Point Pleasant but if we wanted more action and more of a fist-pumping scene, we could walk to Jenkinson’s Boardwalk which we did Saturday night for the fun of it and the whole experience made us feel like kids again.  We played way too many rounds of skee-ball and got prizes like whoopee cushions, slap bracelets, and rubber duckies. I decided it was a good idea to buy a hermit crab only to realize the next day that it probably wasn’t a good idea and the boardwalk was countless hours of people watching entertainment.  Yes, everyone expects this side of the Shore.

The other side which people don’t get to see is the natural beauty of the Shore.  There are so many natural preserves, parks and wildlife.  I didn’t realize that Point Pleasant is a fishing town.  Fishing is so prevalent in the culture there.  There are tons of seafood restaurants around that serve fresh seafood daily.  Two of our favorites were Shipwreck Point which had incredible day boat scallops and the Point Lobster Company which had the best hot lobster roll I’ve ever had.  I found out later that their lobster roll is CT style served hot on a hot dog bun with nothing but butter.  Who knew?

I just felt so fit and healthy while I was there.  Every morning we woke up and went for a run on the beach, ate a healthy breakfast, went to the beach, went swimming, walked everywhere and ate seafood for dinner.  I just love the Shore for a quick beach getaway because the beaches are beautiful, there’s fresh seafood, and for us city dwellers, it’s very close.  I would consider the Shore for your next beach getaway.

theshore2theshore3theshore4theshore6

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

Bibim Naeng Myun

bibimnaengmyun1You know when there’s that one meal or dish that reminds you of someone?  Every time you eat it, it brings back wonderful memories that you’ve had with that person.  For me, the one dish that reminds me of my mom is bibim naeng myun.  Probably because she makes it a lot especially in the Summer and it’s so delicious it brings tears to my eyes but mainly because we’re both obsessed with it.  I’m very dramatic about food if you couldn’t tell.

Bibim in Korean means to mix and naeng myun means noodles so bibim naeng myun is a mixed noodle dish usually with vegetables and protein.  I love it because it’s usually served cold which is so refreshing in the Summer and it’s spicy.  My mom usually makes hers with vegetables and pickled cucumbers but you can add meat to it if you want and because we’re Asian, we top it off with a hardboiled egg.

It’s so easy to make and is a crowd pleaser because it’s gluten free and can easily be prepared vegan or vegetarian.  I like making mine with raw seasonal vegetables for that extra crunch.  Bibim naeng myun is one of my favorite healthy Summer time meals and it reminds me of my mama every time.

Ingredients:

Recipe serves 2

  •  1 lb buckwheat soba noodles
  • 1 hardboiled egg
  • 1 ½ tablespoon gochujang (red pepper paste)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
  • ½ tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • ½ English cucumber, julienned
  • 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 1 scallion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mache

Directions:

  1. Boil the water and cook the noodles according to the directions on the package.
  2. In the meantime, wash and cut all the vegetables. Hard boil 1 egg. I bring the water to a boil. Once it starts boiling, I put the egg in the water and time it for 12 minutes. I immediately submerge the egg in cold water.
  3. When the noodles are done, I immediately rinse them off with cold water. I put the noodles back in the pot and mix in the gochujang, sesame oil, tamari, and rice wine vinegar.
  4. I serve the noodles in a bowl with the vegetables and ½ of the hardboiled egg.

bibimnaengmyun2bibimnaenmyun3bibimnaengmyun4

Posted in Recipes | Leave a comment

5 Things Laura Loves

corntomatoes1 {Roasted corn and heirloom tomato salad via this post}

Today’s August 1st and the Summer is nearing its end.  What better way to celebrate the weekend than fitting in your favorite Summer activities?  This is the time of year when I become sleep deprived because all I want to do is be outside, have long dinners, drinks with friends, and take weekend trips.  This week I needed to calm down and recuperate from the last couple of weeks…so I only drank rosé two nights this week (don’t judge).  I worked out, went to bed early, drank green juices and I have to say that this is the first time in a while where I feel awesome!  Well, I can always detox my life in the Fall.  These were the things I’ve been lovin’ this week.  Have a great weekend everyone!

5things2{Sailing towards Lady Liberty}

5things3{Epic sunsets on the Hudson River}

5things4{Major hair flipping}

5things5{Picnics on the beach | Photo found on Pinterest}

Posted in 5 Things Laura Loves | Leave a comment

The Berkshires

berkshires1Every year, for the last ten years, my college girlfriends and I go away for a weekend trip. We make it a priority to commit to one weekend every year despite having hectic schedules, husbands, boyfriends, babies, and other life commitments.  This year, I thought it would be fun and relaxing to have a weekend in the Berkshires away from the city life.

I found this quaint and charming cabin in Pittsfield, MA through Airbnb.  It was the perfect house for us.  It was small, cozy, newly renovated and super clean (message me if you want details).  I love renting a house versus a hotel because you can cook together and hang out comfortably together.

We arrived on Friday evening just in time for the most amazing dinner at Elizabeth’s.  They source all their ingredients locally and make this unforgettable salad.  I’m still dreaming about that salad.  Elizabeth’s is literally in a house by the railroad tracks but don’t let appearances fool you, the food is incredible.  The next day, we canoed on Onota Lake which felt more like a team building exercise and went hiking in Pittsfield State Forest.  At night, we drank wine and played games.  It was the perfect weekend.

Whenever I’m with these girls, I feel like I’m in college again.  It was so wonderful to reconnect with girlfriends in this serene locale.  We all went back to our lives refreshed, renewed, and twenty-two again.

berkshires2berkshires3a

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment