10 Pounds Later

Anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE Panera. In high school I worked here for about 6 months and to this day, it was probably my favorite job. Unfortunately, when I moved to New York, the closest Panera was over 6 miles away, outside of the city. As a result, whenever I would leave the city of go home for a weekend, a trip to Panera was always on my list of things to do.

So when it was announced that Panera was coming to Manhattan – I freaked. The first store opened earlier this year at on 7th ave between 28th  and 29th. This is about 15 blocks north from my office and 3 avenues west (i.e not very close) but that didn’t stop me. On opening day, I trekked over to the store for lunch. I was so excited I could hardly contain it – well, the fact is, I didn’t. After ordering a bowl of broccoli cheddar soup with a massive grin on my face, I announced to the cashier that “I used to be you! I worked at a Panera once. It was awesome.” I thought she would join in on my elated state however, she responded by saying “So does that mean, one day, I will get to be you?” Clearly she didn’t understand that I thought, by working at Panera, she was the lucky one.

While the experience of eating Panera that day was fantastic, I had to come to terms that it wasn’t going to become a daily experience. The store was just too far away.

But then, I saw they were opening another Panera in Union Square – a 2 minute walk from my work. Nearly every day for months, I would walk by the site and peer in the windows to see how far along the construction was coming. Sadly, with union protests the work was slowed. And I was denied my “fresh” bread, soups and sandwiches.

Last week, after returning to the office from a nice lunch out with some co-workers, another one of my colleagues asked me if I had been to Panera yet? I freaked out – not realizing that it was opened. I was so upset that I had already had lunch that day – for a second I thought about making myself throw up just so I could go and eat another lunch but then decided that wasn’t a good idea, not to mention gross.

The next morning, I happily left my apartment without breakfast so I could stop at Panera for a cinnamon crunch bagel and a caramel latte. I know, not the healthiest of choices, but boy did it make me happy. I practically skipped into work.

Needless to say, it was delicious and I can’t wait to go back. So in honor of the 10 pounds that I will inevitably gain from all of the food I will eat from Panera, I am running my very first Giveaway on my blog. Leave a comment with your favorite menu item at Panera and you will be entered to win a 15 dollar gift card to your local Panera! The winner will be announced on Monday.

Happy eating!

CrossFit and Bloodies, The Perfect Combo

Matt and I have started to settle into a 2012 weekend routine. And I like it.

Since I started participated in CrossFit with Matt, we now make a weekend activity out of it. We go to one of the morning workouts on either Saturday or Sunday and then enjoy a delicious brunch at one of the local restaurants n Williamsburg. This tradition is something that I now look forward too – especially if it involves a bloody mary!

This weekend, after our workout, we went to a new restaurant, Diner. I heard about this place from a co-worker (I think their cousin may own it, but I am not really sure) and after researching it a little more on Yelp, I decided this would be a good post-workout spot. Well, let me tell you, we were not disappointed.

Williamsburg is known as being a popular location with hispters, and The Diner certainly appeals to that character type. From the red, shack-like appearance, to the menu scribbled on a piece of paper, to our waiter who looked like he was a 70s gym teacher – it was amazing. We split a stick bun (diet, what diet?), and I got eggs and toast while Matt indulged himself with the country breakfast. The bloody mary was good, but it didn’t live up to the bloodies at Daddy-O’s, we favorite spot in the West Village. All in all it was a great experience.

We also spent some time this weekend celebrating some of our favorite friends. Saturday night started off with an engagement party for one of our favorite couples Jen and Nate. We are so thrilled for them and can not wait to hear more about the wedding planning process. I was particularly excited because I clued Jen into the wonderful world of pinterest – I hope she will spending hours on their looking for inspiration!

Afterwards, we met up with a lot of our friends to celebrate Mike Smeets’ birthday. It was quite a night filled with dancing, cupcakes, and a bar the promised “more fun” – Thanks for including us in the festivities!

A Valentine’s Day Tradition

I have never really been into the whole Valentine’s Day thing. While I certainly enjoy receiving candy hearts and making homemade valentine’s cards out of red and white paper doilies, I never felt the need to expect boxes of chocolate, a dozen red roses and expensive jewelry. Matt agrees with me on this and we originally celebrated by going out to dinner.

The first year after college, I was working as a consultant, traveling to Princeton,  NJ a fair amount. On Valentine’s Day, I had a 10am flight out to NJ so I wasn’t going to be able to do dinner with Matt. Instead, he suggested that we get brunch at the Four Season before work. It seemed like a good solution, so I went along with it. At 7am in the morning, we sat down to eat and enjoyed a delicious breakfast in a room with a breath-taking view of Boston Common.

There was something nice about going out to breakfast on a week day and in a hotel where the wait staff treats you incredibly nice. I am not sure if it is because they assume you are a guest of the hotel or not, but there was certainly something in the interactions that make you feel really special. Matt and I decided to continue this tradition of celebration Valentine’s Day with a breakfast in various hotel restaurants.

This morning, Matt surprised me by taking me to Norma’s, located in the Parker Meridien. He got the idea from an episode of Gossip Girl, when Nate first met Juliette. So not only did Matt take me out to breakfast, but he was aiming to be as smooth as Nate Archibald – pretty impressive after more than nine years.

Breakfast was amazing. Matt and I both enjoyed ourselves fully and left completely stuffed. It was the best way to start my day and I wouldn’t have wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day any other way.

Leaving the Island

Growing up, I lived in a circle with a radius of approximately 5 miles. I rode the school bus 4.8 miles to middle school, rode 6.6 miles to the Mall of New Hampshire, rode my bike 4.6 miles to the Bedford Bluffs where I spent every day during the summer and walked .4 miles to visit my best friend (or .2 miles if I cut through the woods).

When I was in high school, the circle expanded to a radius of approximately 60 miles. I drove 6.6 miles east to school, 55.6 miles south-east to swim practice and 73.9 miles south to visit Matt. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time in the car. During those days, I knew every song on the radio, perfected my ability to dance while sitting, and learned the location of every Dunkin Donuts along Route 3. I attribute my relationship with one of my best friends to the fact that we spent at least 2 hours in the car together every day, not to mention the fact that we shared a near death experience when I decided to shut my eyes for a quick second while driving to practice. We spent a lot of time chatting about school, swimming, and of course, boys.

My life is very different now that I live in New York. I traded my car in for a subway pass, my one hour commute to swim practice in for a 30 minute subway ride to Union Square, and the 3 miles drive to the grocery store to a 3 minute walk to Whole Foods down the block. While living in a city does make some things much more convenient, I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss suburbia.

Now I live on an island.  An island that is 13.4 miles long and 2.3 miles wide. A 23 square mile island with more than 1.6 million people. No longer do I live in a circle with a 60 mile radius. Now I live within a rectangle that is 10 square miles smaller than my hometown, yet has a population that is 80 times larger. I travel within a circle that has a two-mile radius and I never leave the island. That is, until today.

For my Birthday, Matt promised to take me to a cooking class. We have done this before, see prior post, and it was a lot of fun. However, instead of going back to the Institute of Culinary Education, Matt decided to try out The Brooklyn Kitchen, a smaller, “off the beaten path” location (follow their blog here). After reading through the course offerings, we decided on the Fresh Pasta Sunday course. So this afternoon, after a delicious breakfast of irish oatmeal and some time in the gym, Matt and I ventured off the island and into Brooklyn.

We arrived to tree-lined streets, buildings no taller than 5 stories and a strange, but enjoyable, quietness. We could easily walk down the sidewalks to the kitchen without having to dodge tourists and hundreds of people. I suddenly felt at home in Brooklyn.

Our class was amazing. We learned how to make the dough from scratch and worked with a pasta machine. As we put the pasta through the machine a few times, our dough grew into a long sheet. As we cranked the pasta through the machine it flattened out and grew in length. Working together to maneuver this large sheet of pasta, we were able to make angel hair pasta, fettuccine and butternut squash ravioli. At the end of class, we were able to taste the fruits of our labor and bring some of the uncooked pasta home. It was a great experience and I can’t wait to invite Matt into our kitchen at home more often. He is an amazing sous-chef!

I encourage you all to leave your island and expand your radius; you never know what you will find.