The ‘Experience’

Wondering why my dear friend Alyssa looks like an extra for the next Star Trek film? Read on…

Yesterday was Alyssa’s birthday and lucky for me, she chose to spend it visiting New York City with her new fiancé Trevor and our friend Alex! It was one of the most fun, relaxing days I’ve spent in the city thus far.

First on the list was a delicious brunch at Freemans. Freemans is a bit difficult to explain. It’s a tucked away-cozy-yet-eclectic-lodge-hipster-gastropub… see what I mean? What they do have is an excellent brunch menu with an equally good drink menu. I ordered the poached eggs on top of white cheddar grits with roasted tomato and sourdough toast along with a star anise-flavored lemonade. Both were pure yum-ness. I honestly have only great things to say about Freemans. Although the brunch crowd was there in full force, we were lucky enough to be seated in the private wine room with no wait at all! Our waitress Phoebe was also just amazingly sweet. I am absolutely going back there again.

me with the birthday girl!

... and the manly men too of course

side note: what’s with this freakish weather?? 50 degrees in January is not what I imagined when I moved to New York. Back in the sweltering summer months, it seemed every New Yorker was warning me about the brutal city winter that lay ahead. ‘Winters here are so bad. They’ll make you want to hibernate indoors because every time you venture outside your eyeballs will freeze to death.’ I remember thinking ‘Oh dear… but I don’t want frozen eyeballs!’ … And yet yesterday I walked around in a silk blouse and a trench coat with not an eyeball popsicle in sight. Not to complain but where’s my snow?

Anyways, next on our list was the New Museum which currently has an exhibition called the ‘Carsten Höller: Experience.’ This is also hard to explain (or maybe I’m just really bad at explaining things). In general, it’s an adult amusement park with every art piece in the exhibition having an interactive sensory experience linked to it. The main attraction is the giant slide that goes through three floors of the museum. The wait for it was about 40 minutes long but I would say worth it… I mean, when else can you scream at the top of your lungs going down a giant steel slide?

Other installations include a mirrored carousel (beautiful to look at but not very fun to ride… too slow), a Psycho tank (sensory deprivation tank in which you float weightlessly in water, meant to mimick the Dead Sea), a fish tank in which you can stick your head underneath and watch all the fishies swim around you (my favorite!) and other works meant to stimulate/disorient your senses.

Another fun element in the exhibition were these upside-down goggles. A prism inside the goggles turns everything you see completely upside down. Quite disorienting to say the least (in fact, you have to sign a waiver before you enter the galleries) but SO MUCH FUN! We all got such a kick out of the simplest tasks, such as watching someone drop a quarter into their hands or trying to walk in a straight line, all done UPSIDE DOWN. Plus the goggles just made us look plain silly.

Hey, you look funny.... NO you look funny.

We ended up spending close to 4 hours in the museum… granted most of it was spent waiting in line for each of the activities. As you would expect, this has been a very popular exhibition and everything you do (slide, carousel, goggles, etc.) requires you to stand in a separate line. All in all though, if you know what to expect before you go there, it’s definitely a worthwhile experience. All four of us had a blast!

After the museum, we were dizzy with hunger, and just plain dizzy. So we headed uptown to one of my favorite restaurants in the city, Café Sabarsky. Attached to the Neue Galleries, Café Sabarsky is an Austrian-German café with a rich decor of dark wood-paneling and a beautiful marble fireplace. The food is fantastic but the Viennese coffee and desserts are to-die-for! I first was introduced to this place by my boss who adores the restaurant. Last night was my third time there in the past month (second time with Alyssa who requested it especially for her birthday) so you could say I kinda love this place as well.

Alyssa showin off her ring aka 'Big Sparkler'

I won’t go too much in detail over what I ate because, holy cow! this post is long… and pretty much anything you get here is guaranteed to be delicious. As long as I am there with you when you get it.

I honestly could not have wished for a better day.

Happy, Happy Birthday to Elvis!… oh yes, and to Alyssa as well. xo

Freemans
8 Rivington Street (down Freemans Alley), New York, NY 10002
(212) 420.0012

New Museum
Carsten Holler: Experience (closes January 22, 2012)
235 Bowery, New York, NY 10002
(212) 219.1222

Café Sabarsky
1048 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10028-0111
(212) 288.0665

 
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Siena Again-a!

Catania, Sicilia: Spring 2009

The best thing I ever did in college was to decide to study abroad. The spring semester I spent in Siena, Italy has really had an impact on my professional and personal life. Not only did it shape my passion for art but through it I also met some of my dearest friends. So I was completely overjoyed this weekend when my roommate in Italy, Laura, visited NYC from Florida this weekend! I hadn’t seen her in a year so it was wonderful to reconnect.

2.5 years later: NYC

As with every other person in our Siena program, Laura is a HUGE foodie. So of course, our weekend composed of some delicious eatings. We started off Saturday with a brunch at Poco where for $25 it’s all you can drink Mimosas, Bloody Marys, and Sangrias + entrée. I ordered the Florentine Benedict (crispy arepa, spinach, poached eggs & pimento hollandaise). I love any Eggs Benedict variation and the potatoes that came with it were divine. As a warning though, the service here is not the best and there is a 1.5 hour limit to how long you can stay at the table. So once you are seated, drink up!

Afterwards we spent the day walking around the East Village up to Eataly (of course!) in the Flatiron District. But inevitably no visit with me is complete without a stop at the Met. As we meandered Central Park we eventually ended our evening looking at Duccio’s Madonna and Child (one of the most famous Sienese painters) as well as making it up to the rooftop for sunset.

As with any good friend, every reunion is a chance to reminisce over old memories as well as make some wonderful new ones. Next reunion: il Pallio 2012. Long live the Aquila!

xo Ciao Bella!

Poco NYC
33 Avenue B, NY NY
(212) 228.4461
 
the Met rooftop (open only until October)
1000 5th avenue, NY NY
(212) 535.7710
 

happy new year?

In fashion, September marks the beginning of a new year. A time to shed those old clothes and last year’s Louboutins in order to forge yourself a new identity. This seems highly appropriate for me these days with my new job, my new apartment, and my new designer wardrobe (hah… i wish!).

For me, September also brings about a reevaluation of sorts. Change is in air. Fall is approaching, kids have headed back to school, and last but not least, another birthday creeping up on yours truly. More so than during the New Year, during this time I find myself setting new goals and aspirations for the future. I always feel too pressured on New Year’s Eve to slap together some bogus list of resolutions (this year, I will not eat chocolate, and pick up gardening… and take ballroom dancing?!). In September, I feel genuinely inspired to create a list of priorities that hopefully will propel me into the direction of becoming a wiser, kinder person. So far the list I have compiled is thus:

(1) apply for graduate school for fall 2012… or eventually
(2) volunteer at a soup kitchen, shelter (sadly, I haven’t done this since high school)
(3) workout more regularly
(4) don’t stress out if I don’t workout regularly
(5) read more. blogs, twitters, and emails don’t count– time to get a library card!
(6) explore New York City. It’s the greatest city in the world, and now my new home.
(7) put together a kick-ass grown up wardrobe (my work clothes are waning)
(8) never be too busy for my friends
(9) never ever be too busy for my family
(10) remember that loving others starts with loving yourself  (my friend Oprah tells me everyday)

So far, the start of September has been great. I was able to visit Nashville and Murfreesboro during Labor Day weekend and boy, was it nice! First off, I stopped by Nashville Friday morning where I met up with one of my former Art History professors and then went to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts to meet with the director/another of my former professors. It felt like being home. It was so nice to get some professional advice as I have been quite confused about how/when/why I should apply for graduate school. Having my questions answered and my worries slightly eased has boosted me to take the plunge.

After a day in Nashville, I went to the Boro to see some of my high school friends and in particular to celebrate the engagement of my friend Morgan! There are moments when it hits me that I really am growing up, and this summer has been chock full of them.

And last but not least, I am so happy to no longer have to keep this secret: my college-roomie for all 4 years and 1/2 of the renowned Dynamic Duo, JESSIE CAPPS, is back in the states!! She made an early surprise trip back home from Ireland to surprise her brother and his fiancée! The timing could not have been more perfect. After one full year of not seeing her, we were finally reunited on Sunday morning over one of her favorite pasttimes: venti Starbucks coffee (and chai for me). Welcome Home JESSIE!

Now, I’m back in New York City having just finished the first day of my big-girl job at the Met. Today seemed completely stress-free and natural. It felt good to be back. Moving into my apartment yesterday, however, was quite an adventure! When my flight got in at 3p, I called my apartment manager to tell him that I would need someone to let me into my new place since both my roommates were out-of-town. Turns out, he’s in Costa Rica. But no problem, his replacement said he would send someone over to meet me at the building at 4p. Perfect! Fast forward to 7.30p, NO SHOW. no one but me sitting in the lobby of my apartment building with both my suitcases, my September Vogue and a growling stomach. Luckily, a middle-aged French lady in my building saw me stranded and invited me to her apartment to have some tea. Turns out she and her fellow Frenchie roommate are both artists who have lived in New York for 20+ years! We sat and chatted about art and the city while I tried to decipher their snippets of French. They were so incredibly sweet, and I will forever be indebted to their hospitality. When one of my roommates finally arrived at 10p, I bid them adieu but not before exchanging numbers. Who said this city is rude? Non moi!

athens, GA

sisters can be bossy, selfish, and teasingly cruel. trust me, growing up i was one. i used to lock my sister christine out of her own room, tell her that i was actually part of an alien breed, or confide to her that i was conflicted with a debilitating disease that could only be eased by eating her Starbursts. but that was last year.

sisterly love

now i like to think i’ve grown out of this brat phase and have truly developed that special bond that can only exist between sisters. she knows all my quirks, my expressions, my true self. and vice versa. sadly, we now live far apart (about 846 miles apart to be exact) and i miss her dearly. so i was delighted when during my visit home, i had the chance to see her yesterday in athens, ga where she has just started her sophomore year at the university of georgia.

athens is completely charming. it’s an archetypal college town where everything is imbued with bulldog pride. the campus is beautiful (but quite hilly!) and the many quaint shops and restaurants are sprinkled throughout downtown or the five points. i got a little private tour of north campus via christine where i saw the famous arch (which you only walk under once you’ve graduated UGA), the many historic buildings and even saw a glimpse of the colossal football stadium.

afterwards, we had worked up quite an appetite. one of the best restaurants in athens is five and ten, run by top chef masters alum hugh acheson (aka mr. unibrow). it’s elevated southern food with a focus on good quality, local ingredients. and deliciousness. it must be one of those places that all the locals know a.k.a. there was no obvious sign outside, causing us to drive right past it two, okay maybe three or four times.

i was so happy once we did find it, because the small restaurant is adorably eclectic and the food was top-notch. to start off with, i had the fresh corn soup with sautéed leeks and crispy almonds on top. it was so creamy yet light and really tasted like biting into a fresh corn on the cob. dinner was the wild striped bass with this pea/bean puree that i had to keep myself from licking off the plate it was so good!

and for dessert, of course, we had a buffet of choices. my favorite was the très leches cake with espresso cream– such a brilliant combination of flavors. definitely one of the best dining experiences I’ve had recently. does the South know how to cook or what?!

what a great way to spend the evening with my favorite essy! ILY xo

Five and Ten
1653 South Lumpkin Street, Athens, GA
 

what a difference two weeks makes…

(somewhat) controlled chaos. that is how i would describe my life these days.

to begin with, last weekend, my family (aka the Choo clan) finally came to visit me in the Big City! in a span of about 3 days, we crammed together so many sites and of course, delicious food! here are some photos of our weekend:

Serendipity 3!

American Museum of Natural History

so happy to be eating chocolate bread @ Balthazar

best desserts i've had in NYC: otto pizzeria

secondly, most of my chaos can be boiled down to two words. Alexander. McQueen. if the Met was giving out free crack, i think we would have had less people than we did this past week. a 2 hr. long wait outside just to get into the museum, 3-4 hr. long lines to see the McQueen exhibition causing us to reach full capacity and close the museum for 20 min on friday, i understand why people have been… perturbed. but to burst into hysterical tears and tell me i ‘need to get my sh*t together!’ uncalled for LADY. needless to say, unless you are planning on getting me a present, don’t mention the words ALEXANDER or MCQUEEN in the same sentence for a while 🙂

for some good news, about two weeks ago, my supervisor asked me if i wanted to stay on at the Met after the internship! my answer: HECK YES! i feel so lucky to be a part of such a world-class institution with so many incredibly passionate people. and now that i’ve found a place to live after a week of apartment hunting, i’m officially going on cruise control…

whether you like it or not Manhattan, i’m here to stay!

Balthazar
80 Spring Street, NY NY
 
Otto Pizzeria
1 Fifth Avenue, NY NY
 
Staten Island Ferry
departs from Manhattan at Whitehall Terminal (South Ferry stop on the 1)
 
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street, NY NY
 
WICKED
Gershwin Theatre, 222 W 51st Street, NY NY
 
 

i got friends in low places

i’ve always been someone who values quality over quantity, and this applies directly to my friendships. to me, friends are people who complement you, challenge you, and support you, all the while humoring you at every step of the way. i must say i’ve missed my friends oh so much during my stay in nyc. so imagine my surprise when i had not only one but TWO sets of friends visit me this weekend!

my first friend, molly, is a familiar face from WAY BACK in high school. you know those ‘instigator’ friends who get you to do pretty much anything? molly is my instigator friend, numero uno. i remember us ditching 6th period one time to go try on prom dresses, drinking cosmopolitans when it was still considered trendy (you do the math), and many other unmentionables that i unfortunately cannot commit to print. she’s also one of the most reliable people i know and is always there to dole out her sage advice. so when she called me thursday night to say that she and her family were making a day trip to nyc the next day, i dropped everything to meet up with her… that, and i was only working a half-day 🙂 although her visit was short and sweet, i was just so happy to see her!

the next day on saturday, i was excited to welcome one of my former college roommates, alyssa, and her boyfriend trevor. although they both live in connecticut and have honky-tonked in nashville with me several times, trevor had actually never explored the big city! so we hit up some of the hot spots (and i mean HOT!)

      

and even enjoyed ourselves a fancy dinner at le cirque (courtesy of restaurant week in nyc!).

on sunday, we hung out at the met (of course) and then headed down towards madison square park to check out the beer garden la birreria and eat pizza at EATALY. it was glorious!

aren’t my friends just adorable?!

btw, shout out to my beautiful friend morgan who just got ENGAGED to her high school sweetheart nick! their very first date was our senior prom– the adorableness is overwhelming, i know.

Le Cirque
151 East 58th Street, NY NY
 
Birreria (15th floor of EATALY)
200 5th Avenue, NY NY

the south meets nyc

everyone knows that the south knows how to do bbq. apparently even new yorkers.

so when my friend anne larimer asked me if i wanted to go to a barbeque block party at madison square park i thought, ‘heck yes!’ and when we learned that martin’s bbq from nashville, tn was coming, i took it as a message from God saying ‘Go, eat barbeque and be merry.’ which we did.

not even the pouring rain on saturday could stop dedicated fans from having a good ole southern time. both the food and the bands reminded me of honky-tonking in downtown nashville. i felt so at home as i ate my bbq sandwich and listened to the guitars playing and just a tinge bit homesick.

luckily, i was quickly comforted by an old friend from high school (and fellow tennessee girl), sonia, who has been living in brooklyn. we had dinner at le verdure in eataly (an AMAZING italian market!). the gnocchi with tomato and mushroom ragu was delicious and at $14 a great deal. unlike this little chunk of cash!

we then headed to a small joint where all the local new yorkers like to hang… TIMES SQUARE. i have to say i did not want to like times square. it’s garish, hectic, and filled with slow tourists. but boy was it FUN! i was completely swept away by all the glittering lights and massive signs. it was my HELLO new york! moment.

i cannot wait to see WICKED with my mother and sister when they come this summer!

big apple bbq block party
madison square park, ny ny
(646) 747.0584
 
eataly
entrance on 23rd street & 5th avenue, ny ny
(212) 229.2560
 

wandering about

every time i walk back to my apartment, i seem to take a different route. not purposefully. i just happen to be prone to wandering (i refuse to call it getting lost).

oftentimes, i’m so concerned with looking ‘like a new yorker’ that on the outside i appear confident in knowing exactly where i’m going, while on the inside i’m completely panicking as i cross every street. i’m not sure exactly what i’m so worried about. i guess i’m afraid that people will just look at me and know ‘ohh she’s not from here. doesn’t know her way around, totally lost.’ no duh, i’ve only passed you by like three times trying to find my metro stop. i can’t help but feel embarrassed.

this monday, after my first day at the Met, I met up with one of my friends from Vanderbilt, Sophia (who is probably secretly reading this post right now). Catching up with Sophia is like the best of the best girl talk. We met up at a trendy tapas bar, Boqueria (Sophia’s pick of course) and talked about all things fashion, boys, and life in general. Between our chatterings and sips of sangria, we dined on a relatively healthy array of a crab salad served with a basil sorbet (very refreshing and tasty!)

as well as a green salad (which could have been a meal in itself), sauteed spinach and garbanzo beans, baby squid (with more frisee salad) and shrimp cooked in garlic oil. like typical former Vandy girls, we forgot to order any carbs and were quick to order some more bread with our shrimp. pronto!

the highlight to me was the dessert, torrija y helad, which i can only describe as a crispy, buttery bread pudding topped with a scoop of yogurt ice cream and drizzled with caramel sauce. yum! the atmosphere of the restaurant was intimate but constantly lively with the bustling of small tables in animated conversation. it was a great pick-me-up to what had been a very exhausting day.

on my way back home, yes, i took yet another detour. but instead of panicking or feeling embarrassed, i took a deep breath and remembered something sophia had said during dinner, ‘i stopped feeling embarrassed in new york a LONG time ago.’ so i forgot my ego and really took the time to look around at my surroundings. as i paced down third avenue, i stopped to look at all the people and the buildings lit up in the new york night and realized… this place is stressful. it’s crowded, dirty and gives me an inferiority complex to the extreme. but when i stop trying so hard to fit in, i also realized that new york can sometimes be utterly and completely, enchanting. and these days, unbearably hot.

 
boqueria
53 west 19th street, ny ny
(212) 343.4255