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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Magnolia Bakery

Having been featured in Sex and the City, Saturday Night Live, and The Devil Wears Prada, I'd been hungering  to go to this bakery long before I ever came to the City. So, of course, the first place I drug my husband to when we first got to Manhattan was the deliciously charming Magnolia Bakery. And I was delightfully pleased and even more impressed than I had imagined. Walking through the front door is like taking a step back in time. The vintage decor is reminder of a 1950's inspired kitchen, with antique lace curtains, old-fashioned Kitchen Aid mixers, and the wafting smells of good old-fashioned homemade baked goods. Opening in the summer of 1996 on a corner in Greenwich Village, this famous bakery began as a cozy little place to grab a cup of coffee and a sweet little snack. Today it is a full service bakery offering freshly made, hand crafted desserts including cakes, pies, pudding, brownies and bars, cookies, mini cheesecakes (the red velvet one is to die for), and even breakfast goods. But they are famously known for their cupcakes which are made from scratch in small batches from only the very finest of ingredients. And they frost them right in front of you in an amazing technique that looks as if it would take years to master. Magnolia Bakery has come a long way in a short amount of time without losing a beat of what makes it a stand-out old-time bakery. Since their first opening they have currently opened 5 more locations: 3 more in NYC, 1 in L.A. and 1 in Dubai. And it has become an iconic place for tourists to stop, lining up down the sidewalks waiting for a taste of their signature cupcakes. The NYC locations include the original one in Greenwich, one in the Upper West Side, Rockefeller Center, and Grand Central Terminal. I personally  have gone to each one of them, as I cannot resist walking by without stopping in for a cupcake. Whether you like chocolate, vanilla, red velvet, or something unique, you have to taste one of these because I promise you it can't be beat!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bryant Park

Known as Bryant Park since 1842, this park hasn't always held quite the stand-up reputation it has today. The once notoriously nicknamed "Needle Park" was known in the 1970's for hosting prostitutes, homeless, and numerous drug dealers with a brisk heroin trade. It was then considered a "no-go zone" by New Yorker's and visitors alike. But after a massive clean-up effort initiated by the park advocacy group known as Park Council from 1979-1983 the park was rejuvenated and brought back to life with all the amenities, including an addition of a book market, flower markets, cafe's, landscape improvements, and exciting entertainment activities. Today, this 9.6 acre Manhattan park is essentially crime-free and has an incredible daily attendance often exceeding 800 people per acre, making it the most densely occupied urban park in the world. Bryant Park is one of my favorite place to go in the city, especially around the holiday's. It hosts "The Holiday Shops", a perfect place to do some unique gift shopping, where you can buy hand made jewelry, homemade chocolates, and look at a multitude of artworks by local artists. There's also a huge free-admission ice rink in the center of the park, dubbed as "NYC's best" by the New York Time's. It's a great place for the whole family to enjoy and the perfect place to grab a steaming artisanal cup of hot chocolate from the 'Wichcraft cafe and a bag of kettle corn from the local vendor. But, not only is Bryant Park a great place to visit in the cold of winter, but they host a variety of events all year round. Probably best known for having been the host of NYC's Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, the park also hosts a Summer Concert Series, Broadway in Bryant Park, and a fabulous "Pinstripes in the Park" event in which they provide a live broadcast of a Yankee's game in which former Yankee's players greet the crowd and take the time to sign autographs. So, as you can see, this park has something for everyone and would be on the top of my list of places to visit in this city that doesn't sleep!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Cookie Jar

What can I say about this Staten Island, NY favorite? Well, for one thing, cake chef owner of Cookie Jar, James Carrozza could best be described as the Willy Wonka of cookies for coming up with such an irresistible idea. This bakery, clearly best known for it's incredibly tasty variety of cookies, offers everything from cakes, cupcakes, muffins, macaroons, cream puffs, pies, and the most delicious brownie bites in town. And at a surprisingly low $10 per pound you can stock up on the most delectable desserts in all of New York in this adorably decorated quaint little shop. From the vintage register to the old-fashioned clocks and antique design to the fantastic wall of every cookie jar imaginable, many of which can be purchased and filled with your favorite bakery treats, this place not only makes your mouth smile but is a feast for the eyes as well. They offer everything from your childhood favorite of chocolate chip to seven-layer rainbow or cherry chocolate chip, and even a peanut butter and jelly variety. I must say though my favorite of all these tasty temptations is definitely their mint chocolate brownie bite--to die for!!!  And they even have cute little tables to sit and enjoy along with a cafe' of drink specials, such as coffee, hot cocoa, and milk to wash down your treats. So, whether you just want a quick snack or need an hour to relax and unwind from your hectic life, there's no better place than this one-of-a-kind childhood fantasy come true!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day at the Museum

Located across the street from Central Park on the upper West side of Manhattan in NYC lies one of the largest and most celebrated museums in the world--the American Museum of Natural History. Housing over 46 permanent exhibition halls, research laboratories, and its very own renowned library, this museum contains an incredible collection of over 32 million specimens, of which only a fraction can be displayed at any given time. The museum was founded back in 1869 and has become one of the world's most fascinating research institutions, known for its exhibitions that bring to life the millions of years of the earth's evolution that have transpired from the birth of our planet through the present day. The exhibits are probably most famously known from the 2006 Ben Stiller movie, "Night at the Museum" in which Stiller acts as a newly recruited night guard who discovers that an ancient curse causes the animals, fossils, and ancient civilizations displayed to come to life before his very eyes and wreak havoc and chaos throughout the night. These displays featured in the film are even more dynamic in person, not to mention quite educational. They create a fun atmosphere for adults and children alike to learn and refresh on the history of the world around us. Just be sure and take an entire day to explore because, well, to put it frankly, there's a whole lot to cover. From ocean life to human biology and evolution, to minerals, gems, and meteorites--three to four hours just won't do. Not to mention the ever sensational planetarium and my favorite of all, the Fossil Halls, where the largest display of dinosaur fossils in the world are right out in the open for you to see! It is an absolute must-see for anyone coming to the city! So, wear your flats ladies and pack a camera and some snacks, 'cause this is a day you don't want to miss!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

M&M's World

At 1600 Broadway in Times Square this 25,000 square foot, three-story colorful sensory-enticer has the largest display of M&M's in the world! M&M's World features a "Mood Analyzer" with help from a few colorful characters, a 17 foot Green M&M Lady Liberty and a just as large Blue M&M Elvis-impersonator, along with over 4,000 one-of-a-kind gifts and souvenirs. One of only three stores in the nation, the other two in Las Vegas and Orlando, NYC's store is an entertainment destination the whole family will love. Introduced to the world in 1941, M&M's have been a tasty pop culture icon for almost 70 years. With adorably quirky characters, fun-loving commercials, and a variety of delectable flavors and colors M&M's have become a favorite treat for generations. And at M&M's World they come to life right before your very eyes. The walls are lined from the ceiling to the floor with clear tubes filled with varieties of colorful combinations of M&M's. The entire store is filled with bright-colored paintings and murals of America's favorite candy personalities. And the music is always jamming, making this the place to brighten up anyone's day! From collectibles you can't find anywhere else, to clothes, home decor, toys and games, to the cutest aprons and kitchen utensils, and, of course, the tasty treats themselves, this store has something for everyone. Whether you're an M&M's enthusiast or just looking for a colorful sweet, M&M's World is the place to go.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Saint Patrick's Cathedral

Located on the east side of 5th Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets in midtown Manhattan stands one of the most beautifully decorated historic landmarks in the United States, Saint Patrick's Cathedral. It is the largest Gothic-style Roman Catholic Cathedral in the U.S. and is the seat of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. The cornerstone of the cathedral was laid on August 15, 1858 but construction was halted during the Civil War and resumed in 1865. The cathedral was completed and opened it's doors in 1879 and, today, accommodates over five and a half million visitors who come to visit and pray each year. Aside from Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome which I am fortunate enough to have had the chance to visit, this is definitely the most beautiful church I've seen. The detail is exquisite, the stained glass windows inspiring, and there are marble altars for dozens of saints in which you can light candles and pray for intercessions. Whether you are Catholic or not, this is a place you definitely need to visit in the city. All are welcome and it is a place that will offer you serenity and peace in the midst of the hustle and bustle of crazy city life. We can always use a moment to be reminded of the presence of God in our lives and from the moment you step inside St. Patrick's that divine presence is undeniable.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Baked by Melissa

After a big meal most people crave something sweet but don't always have room for a full-sized dessert. But wouldn't it be great if there were a place where you could order a bite-sized treat? Well, I'm here to tell you there is and it's called Baked by Melissa. Melissa Bushell realized the temptation dessert lovers have when  walking into a bakery wafting with deliciousness. They want to try one of everything but couldn't possibly without being guilt-ridden for days. So Melissa came up with an ingenious idea: bite-sized filled cupcakes! Literally the size of a quarter, these mini cupcakes pack quite a punch of flavor. From Red Velvet to Cookies and Cream, to Peanut Butter and Jelly and Mint Chocolate Chip, these cupcakes put the "bang" in "bang for your buck". At just $1 each, they fulfill all of your cravings, minus the guilt. There are just two locations here in the city, one in Soho and a new one just opened at Union Square. They offer a variety of 10 permanent flavors and 1 special edition monthly flavor. This months flavor is Sundae--imagine hot fudge sundae meets cupcake. But my favorite flavor of them all is the Tie-Dye, as pictured in the center above. It tickles your taste buds with a fist-full of flavors packed into one bite-sized delight!