5 Tips for Small Kitchen Cooking

As any New Yorker knows, a large and well-equipped kitchen is hard to come by, especially when you’re 20-something and half-broke. Not to worry, though, with a little bit of planning and a healthy dose of resourcefulness, you can happily cook and clean in (almost) any space. I've learned this since moving into my micro-studio this past year and wanted to share a few of my favorite tips and tricks!

MY MICRO KITCHEN!

MY MICRO KITCHEN!

1. Choose Your Kitchen Tools Wisely

Basically, bring the crockpot, but nix the juicer. Where space is limited, prioritization is key. When I first moved into the city, I brought my massive Breville Juicer with me, hence this 3-day juice cleanse I embarked on. I only ever used it that one time, though. Why? Because you can buy a fresh-pressed juice in NYC on every other block for around five bucks. So, after year 1, I took that baby home to Mom & Dad because it simply wasn’t worth all the space it took up. The crockpot, on the other hand, is the perfect NYC cooking machine. It contains 3 pieces which makes for easy cooking and quick clean-up. If you’re pressed for space, just compare. Like, do you really need that ice-cream maker or would that shelf space perhaps better serve a toaster oven?

Anddd just a few of the many, fancy appliances I do NOT have.

Anddd just a few of the many, fancy appliances I do NOT have.

2. Always Make Semi-homemade Dishes

This is actually a great tip for anyone, small kitchen or not. When you cook semi-homemade, there’s simply less prep to worry about and it usually ends up being easier on your budget, too. For instance, I love sautéing a hefty portion of Trader Joe’s fresh pre-cut/washed kale and sliced mushrooms in a pan with some fresh garlic and oil and then adding a bag of TJ’s frozen mushroom risotto on top of it all. If I’m extra hungry, I’ll get a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken as well (nomz). This all takes maybe 15 minutes to prep, cook and plate and it tastes incredibly delicious and refreshing because of the fresh vegetables. Best of all, at the end of the meal, I only have one pan, a stirrer, and a cutting board to clean up. Why break out 5 different measuring cups and a fire up a slew of burners when you can do it all quicker and cheaper?

       3. Add Counter Space Creatively

I was floored when I walked into my current studio for the first time. The kitchen was comprised of a sink and cabinetry, a real refrigerator with a microwave on top, a (working) oven and a gas-burning stove! Who knew a micro studio could fit so much!? It may sound ridiculous, but studio kitchens in NYC often lack at least one of the aforementioned appliances. Needless to say, I was as happy as could be. After I moved in and the enamor wore off, though, I realized that, DUH, I didn’t have a single bit of counter space. Since I spend too much time watching HGTV, I knew I could manage an affordable solution, no illegal renovations necessary. As with most obstacles in life, a little creativity goes a long way! See below's before & after:

4. Invest in Rubber Gloves & Paper Products

If you live in Manhattan in a walk-up, there’s a strong chance you don’t have a dishwasher. Newsflash: this is O.K. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cook, it just means you should act like an adult and clean up after yourself.  I know, I know; it’s a novel idea. But rubber gloves will help! Wearing rubber gloves while cleaning dishes means you don’t have to touch any mushy food in the sink (that always grosses me out) and your hands won’t smell like said sink afterward. Most importantly, you can clean your dishes properly since you can wash with scalding hot water without burning yourself. Of course, having paper plates & cups on hand is also helpful for those times when you’re in a rush, having a snack or just trying to veg out and avoid any cleaning whatsoever. 

I think they call this "Kitchen chic."

I think they call this "Kitchen chic."

5. Grocery Shop Frequently

There are a few reasons I suggest this. First, if you have roommates, you don’t want to be hogging the fridge and freezer with all your bulk items. That’s just rude. Even if you live alone, though, it’s still probably best to shop once a week. Assuming you have a healthy diet (or at least want to have one), you will be buying lots of fresh fruit and veggies and you don’t want them hanging around too long and going bad. Even bread and sandwich meats don’t have a very long shelf life. And, who hasn’t “forgotten” about that half-eaten pad thai in the back of the fridge before since it was hidden from sight? Too much uneaten food equates to wasted money and a stinky fridge. And when you live in a small space, a stinky fridge can mean a stinky apartment. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Hope this helps! Have more ideas to add? Comment below!

How To Remain Calm in Manhattan

At a recent routine teeth-cleaning, my dentist leaned over me, canvassed my mouth with one of those tiny mirrors and then sat back with a sigh. “You’re clenching your teeth again,” he explained, “I’ll have to order you a mouth guard.”

Yes, a mouth guard! Exactly what I was hoping for.

Sarcasm.

He then proceeded in telling me teeth-clenching is a very common side effect of stress and that we often do it unconsciously throughout the day and especially at night. Genuinely concerned, he inquired as to what I might be stressed about. However, I couldn’t really pinpoint anything. I briefly surveyed my life and decided I was pretty happy overall.

When I couldn’t come up with a good enough reason for being stressed, my dentist surmised that it “must just be New York” adding that “the city will do that to you.”

While pairing together "stress" and "New Yorker" in the same sentence may not be exactly revolutionary, it did make me actually pay attention to my mindset over the next few days. And sure enough, I found myself unnecessarily stressed at times.

Would you look at that!

And, so, in an effort to help both myself and other unnecessarily stressed New Yorkers avoid needing to sleep with a mouthguard, I have come up with an unsolicited advice column for what to remember when…

When There’s a –GASP- Slow Walker In Front Of You

Real Talk: Ask yourself: “where, exactly, am I going that I am in such a downright furious rush?” All too often, the answer is work. Yes, work. And, if this is the case, I will kindly remind you to calm-the-eff-down because YOU’RE GOING TO WORK. It’s really not that serious. Even if you aren’t en route to your office and it’s actually, say, a Friday and you’re going away for the weekend. Well, congratulations. The week is now over. So brownbag a beer, wait for the next train, and refrain from shouldering innocent tourists. You’ve made it.

Real Tip: If slow walkers really get you hot n’ bothered, and not in a sexually exciting way, simply change your walking route. For instance, while the route that takes you past Grand Central may be the quickest, it also may be the most frustrating. Save yourself the stress, leave five minutes early, and avoid the chaos.

When It’s Too G-ddamn Loud

Real Talk: This is New York. What volume did you think it came at?

Real Tip:  We’ve all been there, and the remedy is a good pair of headphones. Find a solid Pandora station and crank the tunes.  For the morning, I recommend “Send Me On My Way” by Rusted Root or the Jack Johnson station to ease you into your day. For the afternoon, “Home” by Edwarde Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes and the Grouplove station are my favs. Also, Katy Perry, because duh-f-cking-duh.

P.S. You can also just use earplugs. Nobody is judging you because nobody cares. I promise.

When You’re Just. So. Tired.

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Real Talk: I know, I know, it’s the city that never sleeps, right? Wrong. Everyone sleeps. So stay in for once and take a melatonin. You shouldn’t be at Pacha at 3AM on a work night, anyway. In fact, you should never be at Pacha. EVER. Never Ever. So, if you have been recently, go sit in time-out. You need to re-evaluate your life.  

Real Tip: Consider your time as an investment and be more selective about when you go out and with whom. Also, remember that it’s okay to take a weekend night off, sometimes – at least from binge drinking until 4am. It takes some getting used to, but it makes you appreciate your free time much more and simultaneously makes you feel a lot less worse come Monday.

When You Simply Can’t Take The Heat

Real Talk: Polar Vortex 2014. Never Forget.

Real Tip: This summer has genuinely been mild compared to seasons past. Nonetheless, getting stuck on a sticky, smelly subway cart can really do wonders on an already-bitter New York City soul. To avoid such unfortunate circumstances, I suggest walking when possible (slowly, of course, as we learned in bullet point #1) and carrying a small fan with you. They sell them in Chinatown for, like, $3 bucks. I have one, and not simply because I’m Chinese, but mostly. Regardless, a folder from the file cabinet at work will also do. Also, #ColdShowers.

When You Remember You’re Living in a Shoebox

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Real Talk: If you live uptown, just think about how you could be living amongst the even-smaller, rat-infested, expensive apartments of downtown - far, far away from Riverside or Central Park. And if you live downtown, just think about how you be living uptown – the horror!

Real Tip: First, clean up after yourself and organize your apartment better. This is no longer college, so get it together. Second, get out of town! Or get somewhere peaceful at least. All of us grow weary of the city we are otherwise enamored with. New York is meant to be escaped from every now and then. So, every now and then, you just have to tune in and Time Out.

 

 

 

Date Night Spotlight: City Winery

Best For: Bringing Your Parents Out OR Double-Date

INSIDER'S TIP: All seats are pretty good, but request ones that are centered so you have a good view of the stage. Also, this is a great spot to get a bottle of wine for the table - an affordable and satisfying selection.

Will Set You Back: $60-80 PP taking into account the ticket/seat (depending on where you sit) + 2 drinks/shared bottle and an appetizer.

Atmosphere: Intimate and casual. Guests are requested not to speak loudly while the musician is on stage and there is some "shushing" that goes on in between songs and during quieter ones. The decor is extremely pleasing to the eyes, however, and waitstaff is very friendly.

Twas’ an early Monday evening as I climbed tirelessly on the stepper at the New York Health and Racquet Club. While the daytime had held clear blue skies and a relatively easy start to the week, I was still feeling remnants of the Monday blues wearing me down.

That is, until I received a text from my boyfriend stating the following: “Me and my parents are about to head over to City Winery for Kenny Loggins. Extra seat. Want to join us?” The opportunity could not have come at a better time.

In accordance with their website, "City Winery strives to deliver the highest-end combined culinary and cultural experience to our customers who are passionate in sharing wine, music, and culinary arts." It is a full winery, an intimate concert venue, and a gorgeous space complete with fine dining.

I raced home, threw on my go-to LBD and caught the 1 train downtown to Houston St. Since I had never been to City Winery before, it felt particularly special upon entrance. The exterior provides a welcoming feel on an otherwise empty block. Al fresco dining, sprawling greens and bright pops of burgundy line the large wooden doors that invite you in. The staff continues the theme of cozy service inside, greeting patrons at the door and seamlessly placing delectable cheese dishes on the table while quietly filling glasses of champagne throughout sets.

Of course, the atmosphere, service and surrounding company were not the only wonderful aspects of the evening. Kenny Loggins brought down the house with reverberations of classic tunes and little gifts in the form of new music alongside Blue Sky Riders partners Georgia Middleman and Gary Burr. In between songs, the audience was treated to personal anecdotes and background into when and how various songs were conceived. The whole evening truly was a treat.

After enjoying a show at City Winery, I am thrilled to have a new regular spot for enjoying live music. I mean, how often do you have the chance to see such raw, classic talent in such an intimate and friendly setting? While I love getting up and jamming out as much as the next rocker, I also loved having a designated seat, perfect view, and tableside service to go along with the music. What can I say? I’m spoiled.

The atmosphere at City Winery is simply unparalleled and the lineups are more-than-reliable. With tickets starting as low at $25 for barstool seating at certain shows and often coming in as low as $45 for table seating, City winery is a win-win situation. Not to mention, the food is on-point to an artisanal level and actually affordable. While I was lucky to be treated on this fine occasion, I still scoped out the menu to get the inside scoop on pricing.

The Verdict?

In exchange for that $22 plastic cup of house cabernet you’ll receive in the Delta Sky Lounge at an MSG concert, you can get two glasses of high-quality, sommelier-selected wine at CW. Not to mention, a selection of appetizers and flatbreads are available for under $15. Oh, and in case you needed one more reason to get down to City Winery, Tuesday nights have been declared “free music night” for the rest of summer. I mean, seriously: food, wine, friends and music. Does it get any better?

All in all, City Winery was more-than-well-worth-it for experience…. even if I did take an elbow to the head during the encore rendition of “Footloose.”

I mean, girl's gotta dance.

Perfect For: Bring-Your-Parents-To-Town-Night, Date Night, Friends Night

Price Level: A seat, two drinks and some food will cost you about 5 days worth of groceries. But it's okay - this is what ramen was made for. (No, not the momofuku variety.)

Is NYC Restaurant Week Worth it? Top 10 Picks for 20-somethings

As a 20-something living in Manhattan, I must admit: Restaurant Week is a little confusing. On the one hand, NYC is a foodie’s paradise and Restaurant Week – or, month, rather – is wonderful in that it takes some of the city’s finest culinary jewels and places them within reach of our own, otherwise-poor palates. On the other hand, though, it’s still an expense. For instance, I’ve only been out to lunch a handful of times during my 3 years in the city and not once have I spent $25 on it (Note: Restaurant Week’s 3-course Lunch is set at $25 while the 3-course dinner seating is $38).

Of course, my own experience isn’t reason to invalidate another’s. However, I think it’s safe to say that most New Yorkers between the ages of 20 and 30 would prefer to shell out $38 for a nice dinner with friends, rather than pay $25 for a lunch they never would have gone out for to begin with. Going out for dinner is simply more of a full  experience and – let’s also not forget – most of us have jobs Monday through Friday that act as a sort of obstacle in the way of enjoying that fine-dining luncheon, anyway.

So, while both Zagat and CBS have crafted their own recommendations, I wanted to create a separate list with recommendations catered specifically to the 20-something looking for that little bit extra bang-for-your-buck during restaurant week.

The Top-10 Restaurant Week Picks for 20-somethings is based off of the following criteria:

1)     The Restaurant Must Serve Dinner (3 courses - $38)

This knocked out a slew of favorites from other lists. It’s wonderful that Nobu is participating in restaurant week, but with only the lunch option available, it gets a swift kick off the list by little bro Nobu Next Door that does serve dinner.

2)     The Cuisine Must Be “Worth it”*

 French, Steak/Seafood, Upscale American New/Classic, Japanese

*Allow me to explain the exclusivity. I grew up in a part-Chinese household and spent a summer in China eating the most delectable, hand-crafted dim sum and $1 noodles you’ve ever tasted. So, while I am sure Midtown’s Hakkasan is delicious, it’s difficult for me to justify spending too much money on basic, over-priced ingredients for a cuisine that is meant to be enjoyed family-style on the cheap. Same goes for Mexican fare and soul food. Don’t get me wrong, here. I understand that fusion restaurants are all the rage and that the quality and innovative nature of these cuisines is absolutely growing. However, to me, the beauty of these foods lies in their historic comfort, simplicity and casual enjoyment while the beauty of restaurant week is to enjoy something a little more special.

For this reason, other restaurants, we had to chop you.

3)     The Ratings & Atmosphere Must Be Just Right

All 10 restaurants on the list have something unique about them. Whether the perfect setting for a corporate celebration or a romantic speakeasy from the 1920s, each restaurant encapsulates a uniquely New York atmosphere and has been tried and tested by the pros. While anything over a 20 on Zagat is a solid score, I aimed strictly for 23+ food ratings and then personally took pulse on the ambiance.

 Top 10 Restaurant Week Recommendations for 20-somethings

Bar Boulud – French – 24 Zagat – Upper West Side – Sophisticated Casual

Lure Fishbar – Seafood – 23 Zagat – SoHo – Classic/Nautical

Le Cirque – French – 25 Zagat – Midtown - Posh

21 Club – Classic American – 23 Zagat – Midtown – Historic Speakeasy

Nobu Next Door – Japanese Peruvian – 27 Zagat – Tribeca - Iconic

Perry Street,– New American – 26 Zagat – West Village – Chic/Modern

Po –New American 25 Zagat – West Village – Charming/Cozy Romantic

The Sea Grill – Seafood -23 Zagat– Rock Center – Special Occasion

Perilla – New American – 26 Zagat – West Village – Polished/Intimate

The Capital Grille – Steakhouse – 24 Zagat – Multiple Locations – Corporate/Celebratory

Bonus Recs:

Butter – Seafood/Steak American – Not Yet Rated – Midtown – Stylish/Romantic

Fig & Olive – Mediterranean – 21 Zagat – Multiple Locations – Chic/Trendy

Best Summer '14 Tunes!

It must be said that nothing can encompass summertime quite like music can. There is always that one song, or often collection of songs, that can immediately transport you to a certain summer with a certain someone or something that you just couldn't get enough of - music is special that way. It deepens the imprints of our most poignant memories and plays them to a personalized soundtrack. 

Below are a few of my favorite songs of this summer, along with a few recommendations from my buddy and music twin, Tyler, who has always had an eye and an ear for what's wonderful. 

Vacationer - "The Wild Life"

There's a reason the band's name is Vacationer. Listening to this song makes you feel like it's the first day of summer every time... Perfect to kick off a care-free roadtrip to the beach.

Vance Joy - "Riptide"

I SWOON for James Keogh's voice and sentimental-yet-upbeat melodies. It gives me the feeling of having nostalgia for the present, which I once wrote about here. Especially fitting for late night beers around a fire pit with friends and family.

Bleachers - "I Wanna Get Better"

This song is pure fun wrapped up in some solid lyrics. PLUS, a decent music video for once! Very refreshing.

Cherub - "Doses & Mimosas"

A whimsical sound that lies somewhere between Blood Orange and Twin Shadow and may just be the most wonderful day-drinking-with-your-best-friends-from-college-song.

A-Trak and Cam'ron - "Dipsh*t"

Because, duh. Sounds like something I would have listened to school sophomore year (perhaps Nelly's Heart of the Champion?) whilst speeding out of the high school parking lot after school. And I fucking dig it.

Kiesza - "Hideaway"

Finally, a new-age Janet Jackson meets Tegan & Sara in this phenomenal song that I've strangely only heard on Canadian radio so far even though the entire music takes place in what I assume to be Brooklyn. It's like the 90s grunge scene meets 80s house meets some serious choreography. 

Spoon - "Do You"

'cause you can't go wrong ending it with a Spoon Song.