New Restaurant Coming to Disney Springs

Chef Rick Bayless, a six-time James Beard Foundation award winner, is the latest chef to sign on to open a new restaurant at Disney Springs™ at Walt Disney World® Resort*. Known for his authentic Mexican cuisine, Bayless is opening Frontera Fresco, featuring specialties such as hand-crafted tortas, tacos, salads, fresh-made guacamole and classic Mexican braised meat entrees, all crafted with his time-honored recipes. And, of course, margaritas (plus cocktails, beers and wine).

Bayless is probably best known for winning the title of Bravo TV’s “Top Chef Masters,” and his highly rated National Public Television Series, “Mexico–One Plate at a Time,” is in its 10th season. His popular Chicago restaurants include Frontera Grill (which received a Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant in 2007); Topolobampo; Xoco, and several locations for Frontera Fresco.

His six James Beard Foundation Awards are for two cookbooks; Midwest Chef of the Year; National Chef of the Year; Humanitarian of the Year, and Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America. 


*Disney Springs was formerly known as Downtown Disney

A Yummy Taste of Home: Delivered

There's something to be said about the taste of home.

While living in New York City, I can get practically anything at any hour of the day delivered to my home. However, I found a gem of a bakery that brought the taste of my Midwestern roots to my doorstep in midtown Manhattan in just a few short clicks. (Isn't the Internet GREAT?!)

One of my biggest vices are sweets - and boy! Do I ever love anything from a bakery!
And, well, especially cinnamon rolls.
(For the record: I've tried numerous times in the past to bake my own homemade version,  and fail miserably.)

That's why Cinnamon Sweet Rolls from Historic Grounds Bakery and Coffee Shop had my name written all over them!  One of my all time favorite items!

I ordered them with great anticipation and in just a couple of days, they arrived in a very nice gift box tied up with gingham ribbon. The frosting was packaged separately from the rolls -which made better sense; I was able to place a singular cinnamon bun into the toaster oven for a few minutes just to warm it up.

Each time you can have a fresh-from-the-oven warm cinnamon roll ---of course, with the frosting just melting down the sides and getting a beautiful icing look to them.

Historic Grounds tout that they are made from a passed down family recipe and "twisted into wonderful cinnamon & brown sugar goodness". NYCFG agrees: yummy!!

I'd recommend giving Historic Grounds a try -they make some really delicious home baked pastries - and they make great gifts, too. 

And as a special offer, you can get a free cookie when you mention NYCFG (or NYC Foodie Girl) with your order (just place in the comment section). 
NYCFG and "Jack approved" Cinnamon Sweet Rolls

Top 3 BEST Places to Get Ice Cream in NYC

Big Gay Ice Cream (photo: Yelp)
This is my 2015 Top Three Best Places to Grab Ice Cream* in NYC - and believe me, there's a whole lotta' places to go in the Big Apple, but these are the top three I'd recommend to anyone - whether you're a local or a tourist, any day of the week:


1. Big Gay Ice Cream
I just can't pass up on a Salty Pimp. Don't judge the names or the guy who serves ice cream with blue lipstick - the place is delicious as are the people that work there. Oh, and I really like the boozy Rue McClanahan! I have yet to grab a Chai Shake, but oh, dear foodies, this is for my next visit....!


2. Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (photo: NYCgo)



They have some delicious  flavors to sample here - I love the black sesame combined with a scoop of the purple taro - there's something about the two of those flavors together that just work. If you're going to go, please try the caramel bacon swirl and let me know what you think!





Van Leeuwen (photo: Eater)

3. Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream
The name is annoying but the flavors are fresh and clean. Find one of their on-the-go mobile ice cream trucks or their store front locations and prepare to have a summer that says, "ahhhhh!" Currants and cream get my attention right away, as does their approach to making their products. On their website, they write "We celebrate ingredients perfected by nature, not science." With six trucks and three stores around Brooklyn and Manhattan serving homemade ice creams, fresh pastries and Toby's Estate Coffee, you'll want to check them out.

*Just for clarification: This blog post highlights ICE CREAM, not gelato, which is a completely different category of its own.

Magical Happenings to Follow

Hello wonderful people!!
Oh! Oh! Oh! I'm extremely excited for a multitude of reasons:

We are a Disney Family! WDW 2013
1. Wegmans is coming to NYC! - I grew up just outside of Syracuse, New York - and the thought of having one here in our city makes me beyond ecstatic. I'm one of the "Weggies" cult followers - it's a CNY thing, I know, but it's so much goodness under one roof, I'd be willing to work there part time, just to be part of the magic....
2. And speaking of just that, the Disney Magic cruise ship is coming into our port next week and is rumored to make a big announcement here in NYC, but I have no idea what it is, I can only speculate along with you - I'm hoping that we could have a real-deal Disney ship here in the NY harbor! O.M.G. that would be da bomb! And if you're looking to go anywhere Disney-related, that is my JOB. 100% free Disney vacation planning Victoria@hihovacations.com! Email me and ask away....
3. Oh, but I'm going on vacation this weekend but I'll still check on emails and hey - it's a DISNEY vacation going to parks in California and then on a cruise with DCL, so I can even offer more insider tips that a lot of people don't get when they book something themselves....
4. And if you're interested, I'll be journaling my trip via this blog and #Periscope - which is also via Twitter.

If you're not on Periscope yet, you should be! If you follow me at @ActingVP (via Twitter, also my Periscope handle), you'll get the live notifications that I'm ready to live broadcast and/or you can always watched a saved broadcast later, too.

So those four reasons are my top excitement-inducing justifications for being all giggly and happy on the inside and out!

I feel as though the month of May brought Christmas and my birthday all-in-one, very early this year! If you'd like to join me on my adventures, stay tuned.... It should be a very magical ride!

NYCFG Joins the Magic!

So I want to announce something very exciting: on May 8th, I will be a trained Disney Vacation Planner with Hi Ho Vacations!  

This is SUCH wonderful news for me both professionally and personally. I'm excited to get my training completed so I can not only begin the job of my dreams, but also help others with a magical Disney experience! I'll share more details soon! 
However, if you want to be added to my mailing/alert list, let me know by sending a message to Victoria@HiHoVacations.com

Right now, there is a Walt Disney World Promotion:
Free Dining is back! Book today through July 10, 2015.Valid check in dates are:
August 28 – October 2
October 25 – October 31
November 8 – November 19
December 15 – December 21

Excluded resorts are:

  • Little Mermaid rooms at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
  • All-Star Movies Resort
  • Port Orleans French Quarter
  • Port Orleans Riverside (Excluded beginning Oct. 25)
  • Polynesian Village Villas and Bungalows
  • bay Lake Tower
  • Grand Floridian Villas
  • 3-bedroom Villas
  • Campsites at Ft. Wilderness Campground 
Again, if you're looking for a quote, contact me at the email address listed above and I'll put you in touch - HiHoVacations.com is a FREE and fabulous service.

And just FYI:
My blog will still remain my writing outlet for all things NYC - but I'm just expanding my view on the travel page (there's a new tab if you look at the top) of this website while building a separate site just for Disney vacation planning. I promise to keep my main site "foodie" related and the vacation planning will reside elsewhere! I'm just crazy excited for this new venture and wanted to share.

Have a great rest of the week!
~NYCFG 


*Please note that your personal information will NOT be shared with anyone.

Spring is Here, Honey - How "Bees" It?

Andrew's Amazing Whipped Honey
Spring is officially here in NYC, but alas, the weather has not fully joined in on that confirmation just
yet...!


So speaking of... now that it's getting close to allergy season for so many of us sufferers, what kind of treatments do you use?

I have tried locally sourced, raw honey for the past few years and it really has worked WONDERS for me. I'm actually in awe of a lot of people that do not know about this, so I decided to write and research a little. Hopefully it helps someone!

However, please keep in mind that this is BY NO MEANS a medical document; I am not a medical professional. You should always consult your own doctor/medical professional for advice before starting any treatment.

This is just what has worked for me. I'm not claiming it will work for everyone - but maybe it iwll help you determine if it is right for you.

Here's the breakdown:

You need RAW honey. Honey that is raw will still contain all the living enzymes needed to protect the body from a histamine overdose.

The raw honey should also be as local as possible. There is no magic or specific mileage or radius as to "how local is local?" Basically, any raw honey that is harvested nearby where the bees pollinate the same types of  flowers during the same season can be considered local.


Which brings me to the season appropriate factor: If you suffer with spring allergies, you need to use raw, local honey that is harvested in spring - and the same goes for the fall time. If you buy raw, local honey that was harvested in the alternate season, you won't necessarily benefit from allergy prevention because the pollens to which you are allergic will not be found in the honey from a previous season. (But I'm sure it's still tasty!)

It is also important to NOT heat the raw honey. Don't put it in your hot tea!

In summary, I'll leave you with the Mayo Clinic's article (from Brent A. Bauer, M.D.) on the affects of raw honey and let you formulate your own opinion(s):
  • Honey has been anecdotally reported to lessen symptoms in people with seasonal allergies. But these results haven't been consistently duplicated in clinical studies.
  • Still the idea isn't so far-fetched. Honey has been studied as a cough suppressant and may have anti-inflammatory effects. In addition, some experts point out that honey can contain traces of flower pollen — an allergen. And one treatment for allergies is repeated exposure to small amounts of allergens.
  • For now, however, it appears that honey may just be a sweet placebo. But don't let that stop you from using it in food and beverages. Just don't give honey to children younger than 1 year because of the risk of infant botulism, a rare but serious form of food poisoning. 
Even so it says it "appears that it's a sweet placebo" - that's okay, since it has worked for me! (Mind over matter, right?) I am a big fan of honey bees and love my local source: Andrew's. I find them at the Green Markets here in NYC and in some select health food stores. The whipped honey with cinnamon is a BIG favorite of mine and I'm a loyal fan... but like the Mayo Clinic points out, do NOT give honey to infants or even very small children.


Oh! And please help save the honey bees!
www.SaveHoneyBees.org


***DISCLAIMER: NYCFoodieGirl.com has not been compensated or encouraged to write this posting by any entity or corporation. 
This is merely my own, personal experience and does not contain medical facts or advice.***

Spring Is On Its Way - And I'm Outta' Here

I've just had it with the weather forecasts for the northeast. I'm so glad I'm not from Boston. I would
have to just leave. As in: forever. There's no way I could put up with their snowfall amounts and still call that place home.
I found it bad enough that NYC seemed to have a really long winter last year, and this winter season was no picnic either..
Not to mention that tomorrow is the official FIRST day of SPRING and there's snow in our forecast.
So that's it.
I'm headed to Florida.
I'll let you know how the warm sun feels when I get there....
It won't be a long trip, but it will give me a moment to recharge and also have some more entries to my travel blog section.

I still love you New York, but I need a break from the cold and wintery crap for a moment... See you on the sunny side!
xoxo,
NYCFG

Birthday Cakes and "Business Cents"

Holy crap!

I think I may be in the wrong business! (Not that this is a real life-changing statement, because I am for SURE not in the right profession for my day job as it is... but that's off topic.)

Let me explain:

You see, next week is my little man's birthday. He's turning a rockin' 4 years old. We're pretty excited about it, and, as his parents, we've decided we're going to throw a very low-key children's party. (Remember this statement. It's important.)

We thought it would be low-cost as well. Low key + small children = Low Cost. That's the equation that makes SENSE, right?

Well, well, my dear readers - that could not be further from the truth.

We haven't even paid for any kind of entertainment and we're already in mucho bucks for this very easy-going party that is nothing for any record books. We don't have a clown nor have we rented a bouncy house. It's just a friendly gathering with 5 or 6 other "under fives" so to speak because, you know... he's FOUR!

But his cake? Over $200 ---and this is the BASIC cake. It's not shaped like anything special. There's no neon sign that was customized with his name. No one is serving it on a golden platter. It's just a whoppin' $200 plus NYC tax.

Geez Louise!

I had no idea. I'm still in sticker shock. My husband? Oh he knew. He predicted the price well before it was ordered and I told him he was flat out wrong-o on the price-o. "No way should it be over $80!" is what I said - and I thought I confidently added the Manhattan up-charge.

I hate to be wrong. But I was.

But again, I have the one 8" round cake - and no, it's not in the shape of anything. Because guess what? A shaped, specialized cake is starting - yes, STARTING - at $500. Seriously? This is not a wedding cake nor is it for a gazillion guests. LOW KEY. SMALL CHILDREN. We want LOW COST.

Sorry, we live in 2015 in Manhattan. You pay.

So there you have it.

Next week, I'll share the masterpiece from Carlos Bake Shop and we'll see if it tastes any better than mama's homemade cake. (Which, for the record, I don't think I've baked a cake in over 6 years at this point... so I'm sure the price far outweighs the risk if I baked it!)

I'll have to take on another job to pay for this low key celebration... I should start baking specialty cakes for a living...! Makes cents to me.....!


How to Ask for a Recommendation

I love getting emails and direct messages from y'all. I really do.
Wait - why did I just write "y'all"?
Wow. I forget sometimes where I am...

Ok, let's try that again:
So I like when you guys ask me questions about NYC and all it has to offer.
But PLEASE do me a favor! Before you ask, "What's your favorite --XYZ--?" take the time to give me some context.
  • Where in the city are you planning to visit? 
  • What kinds of cuisine do you or your party prefer/like? If you're vegan, tell me that! If you are a HUGE carnivore, let me know that.
  • What's your price point? Don't get a reservation at a place that has a dollar menu if you're looking to splurge. And on the other hand, if you want to spend a little, but not take out a second mortgage, just tell me. No judgement here!

This week alone, I had ten inquiries - all very generic in nature. And no, I'm not picking on anyone in particular as I really would like to help you with your New York "foodie" questions.
I just need more information than you're giving me to begin with, so if you can frame your questions, I'll help you out with a lot more specificity!

I'm also thinking of publishing some of the questions/answers in an upcoming blog. I think a lot of you are requesting the same things and it might be useful to you.

And I have some homework for you now, readers and followers:
Valentine's Day is approaching. Have you made your reservations yet? Let me know! I'm always interested to hear what others are planning -tourists and locals! Comment below or tweet your reply!

Sincere Fan of Telepan

Just a quick post to give accolades to one of my favorite places on the Upper West Side: Telepan. I have had brunch there and can honestly say every time it is wonderfully delicious.

My favorite (pictured): FALLEN PANCAKES SOUFFLE with brown sugar bacon and huckleberry syrup.
YES. PLEEEEASE!

A press release on their website touts "reviews that rave over the “clarity and focus of his food…elegant and without gimmickry” (The New York Observer), or “…puts its faith in fundamental virtues; its freshness, the pureness or punch of the flavors; the skill with which its been cooked” (The New York Times) it is no surprise that diners come from far beyond the West Side to eat at Telepan."

Yep. That's why I like it, too. And now that it's getting close to the weekend, I'm already dreaming about that brunch menu.

Have a favorite brunch spot in NYC you want to share? Let me know by commenting below. Suggestions welcome!


Cruising from NYC to the Bahamas: A Wave of Disappointment

Happy New Year!

2015 marks the year I write something new! Yay!

I have wanted to write about my travel experiences for awhile, and granted, living in Manhattan means that the bar is set pretty high in terms of quality.

So, with that as my umbrella disclaimer, let me just give you the highlights and low lights of a recent Norwegian Cruise Line (the Breakaway) vacation that I took from NYC to the Bahamas.

Here we go!


The highlights:
Beef Tartare at Ocean Blue
  1. Our cabin. In spite of a couple of minor issues, the minute they were noted, everything was addressed immediately and efficiently. REALLY positive experience with our cabin crew on the whole.
  2. The on-board hotel director tried to make things right. That was really top notch. I also enjoy sitting on the balcony off of our room - so some quiet reading and reflection time was very nice -especially with a nice, complimentary bottle of wine that was sent. **cheers**
  3. Port days were nice in the spa area - the rest of the ship was off the boat, so it was quieter (like a spa SHOULD be!) and quite relaxing.
  4. The term "Freestyle Cruising" was interesting. You don't have the same waitstaff each night at a specific dining time. You go when you want. Not having the same servers also cut back on the amount of tips that you would have automatically added to your bill.
  5. The kid's club talent show on the very last day of the cruise. Our son didn't go to there until day 6 of 7, so we didn't interact too much with the staff there. It wasn't as welcoming as one would want a children's play area should be and our son just felt it (we did too, so we didn't push his attendance). Although, once our son  made some shipmate friends at the pool and found out that they all went to the kids club, he finally decided maybe it would be acceptable to visit. He seemed to really enjoy the couple of times he went, but we simply prefer to spend family time together on vacation and not drop our child off for others to look after all day.
  6. Dining at Ocean Blue
  7. Ocean Blue by Geoffrey Zakarian was a pleasant dining experience. Presentations were beautiful and the food was much better than anywhere else we dined over the course of the cruise.

The low lights:
  1. Smoking in the casino makes the midship area stink because it's musty, old man smell combined with the humidity of the ocean. No joy.
  2. You feel badgered in the shopping area of the ship  -much like going to the ports where shopkeepers on the street come up to you, get into your personal space and pressure you into buying something (crappy that you don't need). It's very annoying when you're in a small space to begin with and you need to pass by this area to get to someplace else. I would try to avoid that floor as much as possible because I'M NOT BUYING some crap -especially with pressure-oriented sales tactics.
  3. Dining options might be plentiful, but many charge supplemental amounts. The inclusive dining options all shared the same, limiting menu. However, the best ambiance was at The Manhattan Room - but it must be located above the ship's engines, as it is so incredibly noisy and your glasses rattle quite a bit - it is a bit humorous. Without a doubt we wanted to try the restaurants that offered (what we hoped would be) something better.
  4. Only 2 of the restaurants should have charged the supplements: Ocean Blue and Moderno. The rest were a COMPLETE joke. Case-in-point: The Japanese "Teppanaki" was basically a show like Ichiban --all performed by Chef Phillip Pino. OK, that wasn't really a chef's name -they were all Filipino (play on words, people!) and pretty much insulted not only Japanese culture, but Asian culture -with their routine. And, NO, that's not okay. EVERY single table did the same shtick and it was poorly rehearsed. I felt dumber for sitting there for 45 minutes.
  5. Speaking of timing, most of the organized activities with any on-board Nickelodeon characters were limited to about 30 minutes or less. On one of our first days, we planned to do a "Family Arts and Crafts with Team Nick" in one of the designated areas. We were 20 minutes late and everyone had LEFT already. It was basically a Sponge Bob t-shirt to color with washable markers (??) -- they still gave us a t-shirt and quickly waved goodbye while showing us the exit.
  6. I also tried another special event with Team Nick. It was a paid for a character meet and greet
    Pajama Jam - 20 Minutes of Distraction and Disappointment
    breakfast - $20 per person. All we received was a horrible breakfast buffet (that was extremely limited and nothing outside of what I got already at the other restaurants), a plastic cup that was broken, a micro-mini container of bubbles, a little sparkly streamer to wave around for a 10 minute dance show, followed by a quick photo op with the characters. We were in and out of there in 30 minutes. Wow. Really? Activities for my son's age (he's almost 4) were few and far between - and they were exceptionally short timed. And keep in mind, we didn't spend a lot of time at the kids club with our son - he didn't want to go.
  7. Maybe it is because most employees didn't feel happy to be there. This sentiment was really noticed by all of us in a HUGE way. For example, at the check-in for the French themed restaurant, Le Bistro, wholly crap, I thought this woman was training to be in the Gestapo. She ignored people waiting in line, never cracked a smile nor did she greet anyone. She looked annoyed at you for being there and when you spoke, she looked down on her monitor, walked away and waved to someone else to take care of people waiting after speaking under her breath in her native Tagalog. NOT a good image or experience for these first time NCL cruisers - she made me believe that if you complained, you'd walk the plank.
  8. And another example of simple rudeness: We also wanted to try the Carlo's Bakery & Gelateria (based off of the "Cake Boss" of Hoboken) -- but guess what? They were only open for a very short window of time from noon to 5pm. I was corrected by a staff member walking by once, who overheard me say to my husband, "We'll have to come back at noon." She rudely and quickly said, "We are not open until 12pm. 12pm!" I looked back at my husband and confirmed that "Noon is 12pm, right?!" We still went back and not only was the gelato gummy, but I'm pretty sure the baked goods were never fresh and remained in a freezer. Bakery = fresh baked goods, people. And why the limited hours? You had to PAY for everything anyway. It would have been better served if people could enjoy an after dinner dessert, but no. Carlo's was closed.
  9. Training and service are in a serious need of an overhaul. They had a place where every customer could certainly give "Additional Gratuity" -even so drinks had it automatically configured - I didn't really feel like anyone went above and beyond to deserve more. If anything, I would have given less than the automatic charge.
  10. And speaking of less -I never ONCE saw "Cruise Director Julie" on board. Every other time I have cruised, the director was in the middle, all over the ship -socializing and participating everywhere. I began to wonder if there really was a cruise director at all.

Moving on...

Overall, we didn't find a lot of value for this particular cruise. If you EVER think that traveling over the Christmas or New Year holiday is a great time to get away from it all... you may wish to re-think that strategy. Apparently, EVERYONE is thinking the same thing. Sure, I might try another season/time on this line and give it another shot - and only if I stayed at "The Haven" level with a very reasonable price.


This was the first and LAST time that I will plan a holiday getaway --especially on a very, very large cruise ship. We boarded a boat that was like a floating version of Long Island and the Jersey Shore. For seven VERY, VERY - V E R Y long days. It was also fully booked.

It was not "ahhh-mazing" nor was there anything completely hysterical.

P.S. And yes, another disclaimer: I am a big Disney Cruise Line fan. I'm accustomed to very family-oriented entertainment that is in complete abundance, every SINGLE day. Most of the cast/crew go out of their way to make your days with them magical. People smile and welcome you -in a sincere way. People seem HAPPY on board a Disney cruise ship and glad you're there, too.

If you've ever had a "wave of disappointment" or a GREAT cruise experience, I'd love to hear it! Feel free to comment and/or tweet me!



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