NYC’s Most Undeniably Delicious Fall Desserts

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Pumpkin spice cake & cupcakes // Magnolia Bakery

Though most of us are probably still wondering where summer went, fall is a greatly anticipated season. Who doesn’t love the crisp air, leaf peeping, sweaters, Halloween and, of course, all the wonderful, warming flavors that come along with this change in season?

That’s right, I’m talking about pumpkin spice and everything nice.

So for all you dessert lovers, here’s a round-up the best fall desserts being offered throughout the city. Make sure to get your fill—peppermint season (winter!) will be here before you know it.

Magnolia Bakery

As one of NYC’s most iconic bakeries, Magnolia Bakery goes all out in showcasing the sweetest seasonal flavors of fall.

This cozy bakery will be offering its traditional pies that include an apple crumb, pumpkin praline pie or black bottom pecan, as well as its seasonal cupcakes in flavors that include harvest apple with cranberries, raisins and pecans, topped with a caramel meringue buttercream.

Moreover, there will be a whole slew of pumpkin desserts offered such as pumpkin spice cake and cupcakes with dried cranberries and spices, topped with caramel cream cheese icing, pumpkin cheesecake made with a gingersnap pecan crust and a pumpkin pecan bar with a spiced pumpkin pecan filling on a brown sugar shortbread crust.

Ring Ding Bar

Ring Dings are a modern spin of the classic 1960s snack cakes. Initially launched at TriBeCa’s, Duane Park Patisserie in the summer of 2016, these heavenly handheld cakes are made from scratch by acclaimed chef, Madeline Lanciani.

Using all natural ingredients, they come in flavors that range from dulce de leche and French toast to pistachio raspberry and lemon crème.

Fall seasonal flavors will include pumpkin pie with pumpkin pie spice cream filling and pumpkin colored white chocolate for the month of October as well as ginger spice with old-fashioned Ginger molasses cake, vanilla cream filling and dark chocolate icing for November.

Momofuku Milk Bar

From the masterminds behind cereal milk soft serve and the appropriately named crack pie, comes fall favorites pumpkin pie cake truffles and pumpkin pie cake.

Take a bite out of a pumpkin pie cake truffle and there’s a high chance you won’t be satisfied with any regular ol’ pumpkin pie ever again. Enjoy the flavors of crumbled spiced pumpkin cake mixed with pumpkin milk, which is then coated with white chocolate and rolled in spiced pie and graham cracker crumbs.

If you need larger scale pumpkin pie cake deliciousness, order the pumpkin pie cake which is a spiced pumpkin cake layered with graham cracker cheesecake and rich pumpkin ganache, topped with candied pumpkin seeds and pie crumbs!

Gotham Bar and Grill

Every first day of fall, Pastry chef Ron Paprocki brings back his famed apple tarte tatin. With each tart baked to order, the beautiful creation is a flawless dessert that incorporates caramelized Braeburn apples within a buttery, flaky puff pastry.

Topped with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream and there you have the quintessential fall indulgence. Look forward to plump bites of apple and an unparalleled flavor combination of burnt brown sugar and butter.

Loews Regency New York Hotel

This luxurious mid-town hotel recently launched Flavors NYC, an experience that allows guests to taste hyper-local culinary flavors without ever needing to leave the property. Featured on its fall menu is West Village bakery, Mah Ze Dahr’s brown butter apple tart made with honey crisp apples.

These seasonal apples are enveloped in brown butter and then dressed with an oat pecan streusel. Be sure to top it with a scoop of vanilla gelato. Not into fruit desserts? Order a cookie plate that include maple pecan and ginger snap cookies.

Mastro’s Steakhouse

Despite possibly being dangerously stuffed by the end of your meal, insist on leaving room for dessert. Maestro’s dessert offerings include a sweet, slightly tart cherry crisp with Bing cherries cooked with sugar and almond extract, topped with a buttery pecan streusel and served warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on top.

Another decadent option? Its signature warm butter cake.

In addition to a ton of butter within the traditional yellow cake, a cream cheese cheesecake mixture is placed on top before getting baked off all at once. Just prior to arrival at your table, sugar is poured on top of the cake, caramelized with a torch and finally, topped with ice cream.

Gristmill Farm

Situated in the center of Brooklyn’s Park Slope, head to the seasonal eatery Gristmill Farm for its freshly churned sweet corn ice cream. This farm-to-table focused restaurant frequently changes its menu based on what locally sourced ingredients are available.

That said, you can count on corn ice cream to be incorporated throughout dessert menu with items like the corn and nectarine sundae with blueberry jam, pie crust and black pepper honey whipped cream in rotation.

Rider

Located within Williamsburg, Rider is a trendy, bi-level American bistro that serves an eclectic range of cuisine. Its dessert menu is no exception. If you’re in the mood for a fall-ish sweet treat that isn’t your average pumpkin spice dessert, head here.

Rider features a peas + carrots dessert with carrot cake Swiss roll, cinnamon toasted spelt and pea ice cream and a tahini semifreddo with miso caramel, ginger snap, honey crisp apple and sesame seeds.

Bistro Chat Noir

Upper East Side’s Bistro Chat Noir is an NYC landmark townhouse turned French bistro conveniently located nearby Central Park. Anyone that’s been in NYC during the fall knows that few things are more perfect than strolling through the park while the leaves are all shades of red, orange and yellow.

Pop in post-park stroll and warm up with a harvest crepe dessert trio. Enjoy three total crepes filled with Nutella, caramel sauce and orange zest; sweet potato puree, cinnamon and crème fraiche; and lastly pumpkin maple puree and caramelized apples.

Gallow Green 

Unlike other rooftop bars in NYC, Gallow Green, located in the McKittrick Hotel, (the home of the immersive theater piece “Sleep No More,”) is a magical getaway year-round. During spring and summer, Gallow Green is a secret garden set in an abandoned train station in Scotland.

In the fall and winter, it transforms into The Lodge at Gallow Green, a cozy winter wonderland complete with ski chalet vibe and mountainous cabin-themed décor.

New to Gallow Green’s menu this month is the classic apple strudel made with Gala apples baked in puff pastry with butter, sugar and cinnamon.

Kingside

On the street level of Viceroy Central Park New York resides Kingside, a dynamic seasonally driven restaurant that serves New American classics. This fall, the dessert menu features a caramel pudding with Bourbon whipped cream, popcorn, ice cream and pretzel crumble.

Healthy At-Home Alternatives

Luckily for those attempting to stay healthy this fall, there are a few sweet, yet wholesome treats to satisfy your cravings. For those that love snacking, try out Blue Diamond‘s seasonal Pumpkin Spice almonds which are packed with everyone’s favorite fall flavors.

If you’re a fan of creamy yogurt, noosa yoghurt recently launched an array of favorite autumn flavors including the maple ginger, with crunchy granola, gingersnap streusel and candied ginger, pumpkin, with real pumpkin puree and a touch of clover wildflower honey, along with the all-American apple, which is basically apple pie without the crust.

The original article is featured in Travel Pulse and can be read here.

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NYC’s Most Festive Fall-Inspired Cocktails

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The Harvest Sour // Bar Moga

As New York City says goodbye to the sweltering heat of summer, restaurants and bars throughout the city launch their autumn-inspired menus, which are always accompanied by seasonal libations.

From apple and cranberry to ginger and coffee, the flavors of the season meet their match with wines, ciders, bourbons and more.

So when you decide you’re over the classic pumpkin spice latte, here’s a roundup to help you find the perfectly spiced, warming drink substitution.

The Campbell

Situated within Grand Central Terminal, The Campbell is a masterfully restored New York institution with a luxe, swanky atmosphere. Warm up with a coffee old fashioned with Suntori Toki Japanese whisky, coffee syrup and coffee bitters, garnished with a citrus twist.

The Flying Cock

A Murray Hill gastropub, The Flying Cock is a popular hotspot that offers a pretty epic boozy brunch. However, if you want to swing by for just the boozy part, you won’t be disappointed. Order the seasonally appropriate Pants On Fire, which is a mix of bourbon, root beer liqueur, cinnamon, angostura bitters and ginger beer.

Mr. Purple

On the 15th floor of Hotel Indigo Lower East Side is Mr. Purple, an ultra-chic rooftop bar and restaurant. Enjoy panoramic views of the city as you sip on The Blood and Sand, a stiff libation with Macallan 12 year scotch, vermouth, Cherry Heering and orange juice.

Loews Regency New York Hotel

Upscale, art deco inspired Loews Regency New York Hotel is featuring two fall cocktails that highlight favorite autumn flavors.

For a strong cocktail, check out the Autumn Old Fashion which incorporates orange, cranberry nectar, bourbon and Angostura bitters in a glass, then garnished with an orange peel and finished with a cinnamon sugar rim.

Interested in a sweet treat? Order the Baked Apple Pie cocktail. With muddled apple, cinnamon sugar syrup, mezcal, bourbon and cider, this cocktail is the ideal dessert substitution for a slice of apple pie.

If these two drinks don’t do it for you, take advantage of Flavor by Loews Hotels, a newly launched experience giving guests the chance to try out local flavors, by tasting one of the many Brooklyn Gin cocktails offered.

Dullboy Bar

If you’re looking for something that feels seasonal without the usual coffee and pumpkin spice flavors that dominate October, check out The Bold & Smokey by Gabriel Rieben of Dullboy Bar in Jersey City.

With Paul John Bold Whisky, Stolen Smoked Rum, Gran Classico bitter liqueur and St. George Spiced Pear Liqueur, it’s a fun twist on the typical brown spirit cocktail.

The Stanton Social

Known for chef-owner Chris Santos’ menu of eclectic tapas, The Stanton Social is offering the Fall to Pieces this autumn season. This libation has a nice tropical twist thanks to its splash of Coconut Oil Washed Monkey Spiced Rum and is accompanied by lime and cinnamon flavors.

SUGARCANE raw bar grill Brooklyn

Old Havana-inspired SUGARCANE raw bar grill in Brooklyn is offering a Tobacco Rum Old Fashioned with Mount Gay Black Barrel rum, maple syrup, Angostura bitters and homemade cigar bitters. Between the maple syrup and the tobacco-infused flavors, it’s akin to sitting next to a fireplace in Vermont.

Hudson’s at Pier 81

Want to cozy up with a warm drink while admiring views of the Manhattan skyline? Take a seat aboard Hudson’s at Pier 81, a lounge and rooftop situated on a 3-story, 160 ft. yacht.

While cruising on the river, why not take in the unobstructed views of the city with a hot Hull of a Mulled Wine in hand? With spices, a hint of lemon and red wine, this beverage is all sorts of comforting.

Bar Moga

Bar Moga is a hip, newly opened “1920s Japanese cocktail bar,” that features Japanese-influenced libations in a retro, glam setting.

A fall specialty that can’t be missed? The Harvest Sour which is a potent concoction of lemon, applejack, rye whiskey, egg white and Angostura and Peychaud bitters.

Runner & Stone

Local favorite Runner & Stone is a neighborhood restaurant, bakery and bar in Brooklyn. If you find yourself in the Gowanus area, pop in and order the inventive Build Me Up Butternut with Old Overholt Rye, butternut squash syrup and allspice dram.

Saxon + Parole

The East Village’s Saxon + Parole is an equestrian-themed American eatery offering a menu full of meat-centric dishes in a lively atmosphere.

For a caffeinated cocktail to get your evening started, order the Take That, Dark & Storm. With espresso-infused rum, ginger beer, lime juice and candied ginger, it’s a sweet zinger of a cocktail.

P.S. Kitchen

Whisky and hearty autumn vegetables go hand in hand. Curious about how roots complement the spirit’s peaty notes? Then head to P.S. Kitchen, a vegan restaurant where 100 percent of profits go to charity, to try The XO. This libation is made with smoked single malt whisky, fresh beet juice, orange juice, muddled raspberries and maple syrup.

Gloria

This Hell’s Kitchen locale is a cozy, contemporary restaurant dedicated to sustainable seafood plates. For a cocktail that showcases the herbal earthiness of a good gin, pair your meal with the Featherbottom. This libation combines gin, cardamaro, bonal and spruce, creating a minimally sweet, crisp drink.

Mastro’s Steakhouse

In the mood for creamy, indulgent after dinner cocktails? Mastro’s Steakhouse is your best pick with two dessert-like cocktails to choose from.

The salted caramel martini features vodka, Gabriel Boudier liqueur de caramel and whipped cream served up with a sea salt rim. The espresso martini consists of Patron XO Café, Svedka vanilla vodka and fresh espresso shaken cold and served up.

Ai Fiori 

Altamarea Group’s Ai Fiori is rolling out “Fall Fridays” this season. Every Friday, after 3 p.m., guests can come in and enjoy a NY Whisky Flight and select ciders and fall cocktails.

In addition, it’s offering Apple Cider Madeleines paired with Orchard Hill Cider Mill, Ten66 Red Label Pommeau.

The Late Late

Located in the Lower East Side, The Late Late is a retro, Irish-inspired pub that prides itself on being a “local” establishment. Start your night with an almost traditional Irish coffee with Irish whiskey, mezcal, espresso liqueur, whipped cream and Cadbury chocolate dust.

The original article is featured in Travel Pulse and can be read here.

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The Great American Eclipse of 2017

The Great American Eclipse of 2017 was one of the most anticipated events of the summer. It was the first solar eclipse since 1918 to perfectly line up across the country, coast to coast, so it’s no surprise that people went crazy trying to get the best view of this big moment.IMG_5364

Making its way from Oregon to South Carolina, the total eclipse lasted about 90 minutes. The stellar phenomenon transformed day into night for a few incredible minutes and I can say from personal experience that it was an unforgettable sight for those lucky enough to see it.

I traveled to Bend, Oregon to view the eclipse. Bend was one of the very first sections of the U.S. to experience the narrow path of totality—the cross section of the United States where the earth, moon and sun fully aligned. Not only is Bend, Oregon a gorgeous, rugged nature-lovers dream destination, but it also offers a rich arts and culture scene, and one of the best craft brewing scenes in the country.

Located on the scenic Deschutes River, it’s also widely-known for its unparalleled, scenic terrain and outdoors sports like fishing, hiking, white-water rafting and mountain biking. While there I hiked up the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, explored the base of the Big Obsidian Flow which is home to over 170 million cubic yards of glassy obsidian and pumice, admired Paulina Falls and camped underneath the stars in anticipation of the eclipse in the Deschutes National Forest.

The views were spectacular! One of my favorites was of Mount Jefferson, a stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc, during the sunrise. It turned a lovely shade of pink!

I wanted to share with you guys my experience tracking down The Great American Eclipse of 2017. Who else was able to view it?

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Newberry National Volcanic Monument

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Newberry caldera obsidian flow

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Pauline Falls

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Mt. Jefferson during the sunrise
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Mt. Jefferson post-sunrise

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The Great American Eclipse of 2017

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Travel | Andaz Mayakoba: Luxury Gone Wild

fullsizeoutput_671fIt seemed like the right time to take advantage of the peaceful view of the lagoon afforded by my spacious balcony. With a surprise delivery of fresh guacamole and chips set out on the table, I laid back on my plush seating.

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Coati!

I began to happily zone out when before my eyes I witnessed the peculiar ruthlessness of nature: A coati had stealthily climbed up a tree adjacent to my balcony to snatch a bird for dinner. It felt like watching a live-action National Geographic episode, only instead of being in the wilderness, I was staying at the Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera Maya.fullsizeoutput_670aIMG_5013

fullsizeoutput_670dThe Andaz features 214 guestrooms, including 41 luxury suites. With three outdoor pools, each outfitted with cabanas, lounge chairs and umbrellas, the hotel provides ample space to soak up the sun, and with four dining options, guests won’t go hungry.
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IMG_4578Each restaurant highlights the authentic cooking techniques of the region while providing a distinctive dining experience. Guests can choose to feast on a range of diverse Latin American cuisine at the dinner-only Casa Amate; eat in a more casual setting at Cocina Milagro, the resort’s spacious main pavilion restaurant offering market-to- table dining; or snack on tacos and ceviche at the beachfront eateries of OllaTaco and OllaCeviche, respectively.fullsizeoutput_6719fullsizeoutput_671afullsizeoutput_671bfullsizeoutput_671d

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The Mayakoba resort complex is home to over 200 species of birds, reptiles, mammals and fish. One of the most exceptional experiences offered is a guided ecoboat tour through the area. The service takes you through the canals, enabling guests to spot plenty of wildlife. Everything from crocodiles to great blue herons can be spotted living harmoniously on the property.

Furthermore, there are 3 miles of trails that connect the hotels within Mayakoba, should you prefer to walk or bike instead. Also in Mayakoba is El Camaleon, a professional, 18-hole golf course that weaves through a diverse tropical landscape.
fullsizeoutput_6720IMG_4849fullsizeoutput_6712fullsizeoutput_6713Be sure to visit the El Pueblito, a traditional village square in the center of the resort. The bustling “little village” is complete with shops selling authentic Mexican crafts; upbeat musical performances; and an ornate chapel where a Catholic Mass is held every Sunday. Along with Mass, guests can partake in a farmers market on Sundays, where vendors’ offerings include indulgent delicacies, beauty products, handmade artifacts, beer and more.fullsizeoutput_6715fullsizeoutput_6717fullsizeoutput_6716IMG_4873IMG_5012fullsizeoutput_6722IMG_4789IMG_4734fullsizeoutput_6721fullsizeoutput_670c

The original article was featured in Travel Weekly and can be read here.

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In the Action: Rosenmontagszug in Düsseldorf, Germany

fullsizeoutput_6702My very first major experience in Europe was dressing up as a Champagne bottle for Düsseldorf’s Rosenmontagszug, also known as Rose Monday Parade. Beginning with the “awakening” on the 11th of the 11th month at 11:11 am, carnival season continues through Ash Wednesday and includes some of the best parties Europe has to offer — the biggest one being Rosenmontagszug.

Similar to Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Rosenmontagszug is an enormous, city-wide party in which everyone — old and young, sober and not-so-sober— join in on the fun. Drinking, dancing, laughing, cheering and overall joyous revelry take over the streets of Düsseldorf during the celebration.fullsizeoutput_66fdThis year I was asked to participate on a float during the parade. To which I obviously said yes. It was one of the most outrageous experiences of my life. The parade consists of over 60 insanely decorated floats, many of which are politically charged and therefore had Trump as the subject of mockery (they had more than enough to work with this year!)

In addition, the parade is filled with walking groups, marching bands, dancers and other unidentifiable groups of revelers. Lining the streets are about a million — yes, a million— people in all sorts of crazy, outlandish costumes cheering as the floats go by.fullsizeoutput_6703Being on a float, dressed as a one of my favorite beverages, in Germany, on a trip sponsored by the German Tourism Board is already an incredible experience. What made it even better? The fact that my main job was to throw handfuls of candy at the crowds! To get my attention, carnival-goers literally screamed, “Düsseldorf Helau!” — the local greeting — in hopes that I throw treats to them! Some people even threw roses to me. Dream come true.

It was literally five hours of smiling, waving and simply being excited for the unbelievable celebration that was happening. It truly was a day of amusement, exhilaration and pure enjoyment.

This is as close to being famous as I’ll ever get.fullsizeoutput_6701unnamed-1fullsizeoutput_66fbIMG_9768img_9826.jpgIMG_9821img_9880.jpgfullsizeoutput_66fa.jpegIMG_9783img_9833.jpgimg_9869.jpgimg_9766.jpgfullsizeoutput_66fefullsizeoutput_66fffullsizeoutput_6700

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Getaways | The Bizarre and Beautiful, Mendocino County

Located 163 miles north of San Francisco is Mendocino County, a picturesque rarity that showcases some of the most stunning natural landscapes that California has to offer. For an unforgettable road trip, grab your best friends (one of which should be a great driver given that a lot of the drive is on windy terrain,) and head up the Mendocino coastline, which in and of itself is beautiful. Think: cliffs, crashing waves, and adjacent green wilderness for hours.

Sure California has plenty of pretty oceanside getaways, but none compare to the quirky, thoroughly charming town of Mendocino. For one, it’s a part of the Emerald Triangle — the largest cannabis-producing region in the country. Not your thing? Totally fine. It’s also home to 90 miles of Pacific coastline, 24 state and national parklands, historic villages and outdoor adventure sites, and countless redwood trees making it ideal for nature lovers. Not to mention Mendocino is filled with strange oddities that need to be seen and experienced to be fully appreciated.

While exploring Mendocino, book your stay at the phenomenal Inn at Newport Ranch which is set on 2,000 acre coastal cattle ranch. It boasts epic ocean views, redwood forests, and over 20 miles of private trails perfect for hiking, horseback riding or whatever your heart desires. Not to mention you’ll find the most chill cows and calves roaming the grounds at any given time. Looking for something a bit more out-of-the-ordinary? Check in to The Andiron. Built in 1959, this eccentric property is spread out over five acres of woods. Each of the 12 cabins are completely refurbished and redesigned, featuring a strange theme that sets it apart from the other. Funky, retro, and unlike any other lodging in the area, you’ll spot antique items, décor, and salvaged furniture throughout The Andiron.

Be sure to make stops at:

For a complete rundown of Mendocino’s most distinctive places to visit, check out my Thrillist article.

Point Arena Lighthouse
IMG_7359fullsizeoutput_51a9The World’s Largest Redwood Tree Service Station
fullsizeoutput_51a3IMG_7057Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree

The Solar Living InstituteIMG_6968IMG_6965IMG_6958fullsizeoutput_51a1IMG_6991IMG_6985IMG_6939IMG_7006The Bluebird CafeIMG_7012

IMG_7014The Inn at Newport Ranchfullsizeoutput_51a4IMG_7244fullsizeoutput_51a7IMG_7266IMG_7274IMG_7252fullsizeoutput_51a5IMG_7286IMG_7226IMG_7168IMG_7205IMG_7144IMG_7137fullsizeoutput_66f8fullsizeoutput_66f7B. Bryan PreserveIMG_7364IMG_7387

The AndironIMG_7484IMG_7489IMG_7473Cowlick’s Ice Cream

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Urbanspace’s Broadway Bites is B A C K

I love having options — who doesn’t amirite? If you live in NYC, chances are you’ve seen Urbanspace’s phenomenal pop-up markets stacked with the best food vendors around. Up and coming. Innovative. Established. Cult-like following. Instagram-worthy. All things delicious live at these markets. Officially open June 1 through July 14 is Broadway Bites at Greeley Square on Broadway, between 32nd and 33rd Street. I had the chance to attend a VIP tasting this week, which basically means I got to stuff my face as much as I could within a few hours. And believe me, I didn’t hold back. Here’s a sneak peak at what you have to look forward to.

Broadway Bites is open daily Monday – Sunday 11am – 9pm. Full list of vendors on website.

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Renegade Lemonade
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Mighty Quinn’s BBQ
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Doughnut Project
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Mi Burger
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Domo Taco
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Squish Marshmallow
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BAO by KAYA
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Ice & Vice
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Squish Marshmallow
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Mochidoki

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Travel | Seaside Tranquility at Palos Verdes’ Stunning Terannea Resort

IMG_4033Pharrell was spotted at this resort the night before I checked in. So. With that in mind, looking to experience the California Coast like never before? Then check out Terranea Resort, located atop Los Angeles’ Palos Verdes Peninsula. This picturesque luxury hotel has left 75 of 102 acres of its private peninsula undeveloped, enabling guests to fully take in the pristine, natural landscape.IMG_4219IMG_3993TR1IMG_3983TRThe resort strives to protect and highlight the environment on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, with its panoramic coastal views; hiking and bird-watching footpaths along the scenic Discovery Trail; educational tours to highlight the property’s ecology and rare flora and fauna; frequent whale, sea lion and dolphin sightings; and temperate weather all year.

Little known fact: even if you’re not a guest at the hotel, you can spend the day at Terranea’s Cove Beach (and pretend like you are!). Aside from the obvious draws — the rocky shoreline, views of the grassy cliffs in the distance, and miles of hiking trails to explore — a major highlight of this beach is the large sea cave that is accessible during low tide. IMG_4229IMG_4339IMG_4226IMG_4894Visitors can enlist the help of the adventure concierge, who specializes in excursions that include horseback rides, paddle boarding, ocean kayaking alongside otters, tide-pool explorations and even falconry (encounters with falcons, Harris hawks and Eurasian eagle owls). I opted for an exhilarating kayak ride which gave me an up close and personal experience with the sea life living within the tall kelp beds on the coastal waters. IMG_4869IMG_4069IMG_4064Another unique aspect of Terranea is its outstanding culinary program which strives to showcase the property’s natural surroundings, as well as the agricultural treasures that grow on its grounds. Lemon trees, honey-filled beehives, seasonal produce such as bell peppers and tomatoes, herbs, and avocado trees are grown on its continually expanding organic farmland at the nearby Catalina View Gardens. Not to mention, the resort also boasts an innovative sea salt conservatory allowing them to harvest their own sea salt straight from the source: the Pacific Ocean.

The Mediterranean-inspired resort is an ideal retreat from the stresses of life. Decorated with elements such as giant clay pots filled with succulents and cacti; wicker lounge furniture with sky blue accents; and lush gardens, mosaics and palm trees, the Terranea maintains a peaceful ambience. Despite the Mediterranean touches, the resort stays true to its California roots, offering guests a relaxed atmosphere to match the tranquil seascape views. You won’t feel out of place in flip-flops or beachy resort wear.

Terranea features 582 guest rooms and suites, including spacious casitas and villas, and the Bungalows, a collection of accommodations that offer spa and wellness-focused amenities. Each guest room has a private balcony, most of which overlook the ocean. The rooms also come with four-fixture stone baths, flat-screen TVs and plush beds with rich linens.

Original article was featured in Travel Weekly and can be read here.

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Travel | Punta Cana’s All-Inclusive Barceló Bávaro Beach Resort Complex

img_6073All-inclusive experiences are by definition luxuriously over-the-top. That said, my time at Punta Cana’s Barceló Bávaro Beach Resort exceeded those high expectations, and here’s why.

Situated on what is known as the “Coconut Coast,” the award-winning resort complex is comprised of two adjacent resorts: Barceló Bávaro Palace Deluxe and the adults-only Barceló Bávaro Beach. While the sheer size of this property is enough to surprise even the most experienced traveler, what is most impressive is the number of attractions, shops, pools, and restaurants that are found on site. Evoking a sense of child-like excitement, the complex is a cross between Disneyworld and a tropical paradise.img_5966img_5969img_6006Located right on the Punta Cana coast, 80 percent of the 1,991 rooms face the ocean, and the property’s beach is rated as one of the top ten beaches world-wide. After being welcomed to the resort with glasses of Champagne, I was escorted to my own suite which offered bottles of complementary rum, fruits, and of course, more bubbly. While the spacious room features modern design and plenty of natural light, the highlight is the patio which overlooks the pool complex, countless palm trees, and the ocean. However, this patio is extra special, as it includes a private hot tub.

Only after a tour of the entire property are guests able to grasp the grand size of this complex. For those in the mood for fun in the sun (minus the sand), guests have the option of four different swimming pools. Each is equipped for ultimate relaxation thanks to a plethora of hammocks, waterfalls, built-in pool seats, and more. Kids can enjoy the Barcy Water Park, complete with water slides, castles, and waterfalls, while the whole family can join in on the adventure at the recently completed Pirate-themed water park.

If you’re feeling lucky, head over to the 24-hour casino, which has everything from slot machines to poker and blackjack. Adjacent to the casino is the nightclub where you can dance the night away, and don’t forget the bowling alley and entire shopping center at your disposal. Take in a show in Barcelò Palace’s Vegas-inspired theater which can accommodate up to 1,400 guests with two levels of seating. Nightly shows are performed with dancers and live music. Itching to get active? There are endless ways to break a sweat on the resort. Pick anything from working out in the fitness center and golfing on the premier 18-hole golf course on property, or get competitive with a game of soccer or tennis. And when you’re ready to unwind, head over to their therapeutic spa.img_6022When the sun is out, there is no easier way to soak it in than by walking over to the beach. Aside from the clear warm waters of the Caribbean, which are kept calm by surrounding coral reefs, guests have complimentary use of kayaks, windsurf boards, sailing boats, paddle boards and catamarans.img_6092

img_6201Going on a resort-organized excursion is highly recommended. Riding through the stunning landscapes of Punta Cana on an ATV is exhilarating, and it’s an excellent way to check out the countryside on the way to the picturesque Macao Beach. Make sure to stop at Rancho Macao where you can learn about hand-rolled cigars, coffee, and cacao production, and have a taste. Toast to the beauty of the Caribbean with some pineapple wine after cooling off in an underground cave filled with five meters of crystal clear water and a waterfall.

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Last but not least, Barceló Bávaro Beach Resort has 14 specialty restaurants, including à la carte options such as México Lindo (Mexican,) Kyoto (Japanese,) and La Dolce Vita (Italian). In addition, there is a 24-hour sports bar with countless televisions and luxurious seating. There are also 16 various bars scattered throughout the property to ensure you’re never without a piña colada or other refreshing beverage of your choice.

Before you book a trip, keep in mind that the resort can be a bit noisy at times, given the large amount of vacationers and young children on the property. Though the scenery surrounding the area is stunning, the enormous capacity of the resort may cause some trouble when searching for a secluded, peaceful spot to truly unwind. All in all, if you’re looking for a tropical getaway with enough activities, shops, and restaurant options to keep even the most demanding traveler busy, this is your place.

Since Barceló Hotel Group’s recent restructuring, three new distinctive brands have been introduced to its already impressive collection: Royal Hideaway Luxury Hotels & ResortsOccidental Hotels & Resorts; and Allegro Hotels. Barcelo Hotel Groups now is involved in more than 109 properties and 33,000 rooms in 20 countries.

Check out LuxeGetaways for the complete article.

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The Everyday-Is-Your-Bday Cake

img_7640Over-the-top, colorful, filled with surprises, super sweet, multi-layered, and perhaps too much for some… this cake is basically me in dessert form. The Everyday-Is-Your-Bday is the ultimate cake. Why not treat yourself like the queen you are, birthday or not?

Live everyday like it’s your bday!

With the help of Fillables Bakeware, you can pack lots of variety into any baked treat. Thanks to its innovative two piece design, you can fill the inside of each individual cup with surprises like candy, pudding, brownie, chocolate chips… almost anything!

I decided to go with the classic funfetti and strawberry cake layers surrounded by a nice coating of vanilla (outside) and strawberry (inside) frosting, topped with sprinkles, covered in coconut, filled with Meyer lemon bar and another layer of coconut flakes, and finally garnished with a lemon twist. Think: strawberry lemonade + coconut confetti.

All you need is three mixes: one box funfetti, one box strawberry, and one box Meyer lemon bars. Follow the directions on the back of the boxes, but disregard the crust portion of the lemon bar instructions. Get baking! Once the cakes are done, let the them cool. Proceed to scoop some of the baked lemon filling into each pocket for a zesty surprise that will break up some of the more intensely sweet flavors. Put the non filled layer on top of the other. Then go crazy with frosting and decorating!
img_7653img_7651img_7650img_7652img_7639img_7656img_7655img_7642Photos by founder of Makeplease, the talented Haley Davis — check her out!

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