Browsing Category

Travel

Tokyo Travel Guide: Three-Day Itinerary

IMG_2292
Tokyo is such an amazing and dynamic city that has so many fun spots to explore. We were recently in Tokyo for three days and three nights and because it was my first time in Japan, I wanted to maximize our time and get to see all of the highlights and bucket list types of activities. (Note: There will be a separate blog post dedicated to everything we ate in Japan, so be sure to check back if you’re a foodie).

In terms with coming up with this itinerary, I literally spent months figuring out what we wanted to tackle, getting recommendations from friends and then mapping them by area so that we could see everything in one area/ward of Tokyo before moving onto another. This is a comprehensive 3-day guide to Tokyo, with all the must-sees. If you are only going for one or two days, stick to the first or first and second day of the guide we put forth.

We should note that we took the subway nearly everywhere during the day, which helped us get around faster and much cheaper than taxi. It is relatively easy to follow as a foreigner and we suggest that you take the subway as much as possible as well. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency in Shinjuku, which we wrote about here.
FullSizeRender 2
We took a redeye from New York to Tokyo, so by the time we got to our hotel and checked in, it was around 5pm. It was tempting to climb into bed and call it a night, since it was about 4am back at home and we barely slept on the flight, but luckily we had come up with a plan to combat any signs of jet lag. Months before getting to Japan, we booked tickets for the Robot Restaurant show, which is such a unique, Japanese experience. We had a 9:30pm reservation, so we dropped off our things at the hotel, changed and had a quick dinner near the Robot Show.

It’s impossible to accurately describe the Robot Show, but it should be a must-do. It is one of Anthony Bourdain’s favorite things to do in Tokyo. Skip the food there and eat before you go. Essentially it is a light show with actors and robots and other very Japanese influences that is extremely entertaining and makes for some amazing Instagrams. Book it in advance online, and we do suggest booking it the night you land to force yourself to go out and get yourself into the right sleeping schedule. We were in bed by midnight that night and slept a good 7 hours which set us up for the rest of the trip.

Day 1: Shibuya, Shinjuku & Harajuku
IMG_1694
Tokyo is broken into 23 different wards and some are iconic. One our first day, we tackled three of the most famous areas for sightseeing, all by subway. We started in Shibuya, where we walked across the world’s busiest intersection, called the Shibuya Crossing. The best way to watch the crowds rush through the crosswalk is from he top floor of the Starbucks in the intersection.

After we checked that off of our list, we headed to Yoyogi Park, or Tokyo’s answer to Central Park. This park is massive and really serene for being in the middle of a thriving city. We timed our trip right because all of the leaves on the trees were brilliant shared of red and orange and yellow. Walking through the park we headed to the Meiji Jingu Shrine, which is a massive shrine in the middle of the woods dedicated to Japan’s former emperor Meiji and his wife. The shrine is a must-see and we loved that local families were visiting it with their children dressed up in traditional Japanese silk outfits. After spending about 45 minutes at the shrine, we used Google maps to walk over to Harajuku.
FullSizeRender 4
Once we got to the Harajuku area, we were able to tackle a bunch of different things on our itinerary. First, we stopped by the Tokyu Plaza Omotesando mall, a detour that will take a total of 10 minutes, but worth it. Here, at the top of the first elevator bank, is a wacky mirror that reflects onto the street in every which way and makes for some fun Instagrams (see the photo I took above).

From here, we walked to Takeshita Street which is at the heart of Harajuku and one of my favorite bits of the day. This bustling, very crowded street is lined with clothing shops, restaurants, candy stores and other very Japanese types of stores. You can spend hours exploring Takeshita Street. Here are our favorite things we did while there.

If you go down this street, you must go to the insane photo booth shop that is called Purikura. Bring cash and have some fun in the crazy number of photo booths that will change your features, such as widening your eyes, slimming your face and giving you an airbrushed look. It makes for a fun and uniquely Japanese souvenir.
o
There are a number of really cool sweet shops on Takeshita Street. The one I had been looking forward to for weeks in advance is called Totti Candy Factory, which is known for their giant, ombre cotton candy. Each color has a different flavor and it is insanely cute.

From here, we headed back to the hotel in Shinjuku but went to an insane discount store that is around Japan called Don Quixote, which has floors upon floors of goods. I bought tons of cheap paper face masks there, which was awesome.

That night, we had our much-anticipated dinner reservation at Sukiyabashi Jiro, which we will fully chronicle in our food blog post to come. In the meantime, if you want to take a look at how we were able to miraculously get a reservation at Jiro, read this blog post here.
FullSizeRender 6
After dinner, we went to a district in Shinjuku called Golden Gai which is an absolute must for a night out in Japan. This area has hundreds of tiny, little bars each with their own theme of sorts inside. They are super intimate and have tons of character and make for an epic night of bar hopping in tiny alleyways. Our favorite bars in Golden Gai were Albatross, pictured above, which has a chandelier hanging outside of it and has chandeliers and candelabras all over the inside and eclectic touches throughout. Their cocktails are amazing and I really loved the vibe and decor. Then, we found a bar with karaoke called Champion Bar which we did with a bunch of locals, which was so fun. We ended the night at Bar Bali, which became this giant party that included belting out Backstreet Boys songs with other travelers and an impromptu Japanese former rockstar. It was a completely epic night and probably the one we talk about most about the trip.

Day 2: Tsukiji Fish Market, Ginza, Ramen Street
IMG_2048
The next day was an early start because we traveled about 45 minutes by train to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market, which was one of my bucket list items on the trip. It is the oldest and biggest fish market in the world and where the sushi purveyors all over Japan come for fresh fish. It is such an amazing place to explore and it’s incredible how much access they give tourists given that we aren’t buying 500-pound tunas and are pretty much just ogling their goods. We didn’t get there early enough to have a chance to witness their famous fish auction (that required getting there at 3 am, no thanks), but we got there for around 9:30 am, which was perfect, because the main hall is open from 10 am until noon, so make sure to go in that window of time.

We walked u and down the aisles, watching as fish mongers broke down giant pieces of fish and looked at the hundreds of varieties of fish on display, some very exotic. It was a really memorable experience and the main floor was super busy with all sorts of workers rushing to and from with different fish. After seeing the goods, be sure to have a traditional sushi breakfast at the restaurants just outside the fish market, which have really fresh sushi at a fraction of the prices you will find around Tokyo. The most famous places near the fish market have really long lines. They are Sushi Dai, Torito and Nakaya. We didn’t have time to wait in line so we went into a random restaurant and had breakfast.

From here, we walked to the Ginza area, which kind of felt like Tokyo’s Fifth Avenue. There are loads of high-end shops and department stores. We stopped into Mitsukoshi, which is one of their oldest and most high-end department stores and explored their food hall in the basement, which could make a good spot for lunch or a snack. But, we were planning on ramen after so we looked and didn’t touch.
IMG_2086
From here, we walked dot Tokyo Station for their famous Ramen Street in the underground portion of the train station, This alleyway is home to a number of little ramen shops where you order your ramen dish from a vending machine of sorts. There are some old stalwarts such as Ippudo and Rokurinsha, which typically have extremely long lines. We ended up eating at Soranoiro Nippon, which was really great. It’s an inexpensive but really interesting and filling lunch. Editor’s note: I hadn’t really eaten ramen prior to coming to Japan because it’s heavy on carbs, but am really happy I let myself eat it while there because it was super flavorful and local. Also, it’s a quick meal, so you can get back out and sightsee.

From lunch, we took the train to a ward of Tokyo called Akihabara, which is the technology hub of Tokyo. It is firmly stuck in the 1980s with neon lights and towers filled with electronics, gamers, and nerd culture. The shops here are multi-levels and house everything from giant video game arcades to anime and manga shops to sex shops that specialize in nerd culture. The entire area was interesting if not a tiny bit seedy. We also went into a maid cafe, which was a strange experience.

That night, we had dinner at a tonkatsu restaurant which is a Japanese pork cutlet. It was called Kimukatsu and we had all sorts of pork cutlets and sake. After, we went out for drinks with a friend in town at a place in Shibuya called DJ Bar Bridge and then spent the rest of the night doing more karaoke.

The next day we got up, bought souvenirs and had a decadent lunch at the Park Hyatt’s restaurant called Kozue which has the most amazing views of Tokyo before hopping on a train to Kyoto.

Some practical tips for Tokyo: Be sure to always have Japanese yen, because many places are cash only. Subway is the best way to get around.

Check back later this week for more travel guides in Asia!

Tokyo Travel Guide: The Hyatt Regency

IMG_1590
I recently had a surreal vacation where I got to travel around Asia for two weeks (my first time on the continent!) and the trip started in Tokyo. This is the first of more than a dozen travel guides we have planned on where to stay, what to do, what to eat, etc. so be sure to check back over the course of the next few weeks for detailed itineraries and the like.

For the three nights that we were in Tokyo, we stayed at The Hyatt Regency in Shinjuku and we loved every minute of it. This hotel is beautiful and in an amazing part of town that will give you access to all the sightseeing you want to do. Just some matters of practicality — once you land at Narita airport, take the airport limousine shuttle as it is about $35/head for the two-hour drive into Tokyo and it will drop you off at The Hyatt Regency, which is one of the only hotels it stops at. (If you were to take a taxi, it would deb several hundred dollars per head.)

My great experience with the Hyatt started before we’d even landed in Tokyo. For weeks before our trip, I had been emailing with their concierge for planning help and they went above and beyond in scheduling everything from restaurant reservations — including Jiro (!!) chronicled in this blog post — to helping us figure out train schedules and the like. They were immediately responsive and always had amazing recommendations that helped us maximize our time in Tokyo.

When we walked into the Hyatt after a 13-hour flight and no sleep, my spirits were immediately lifted. The hotel was decked out in Christmas decorations and absolutely sparkled. They have these decadent chandeliers hanging from he ceiling that are the focal point and really set the tone for the stay. They hotel is truly grand with giant glass elevator banks and polished checkered floors and rich oak.
cq5dam.thumbnail.744.415.png
We then went up to our room and I had heard from friends who had visited Tokyo and also read online that typically Japanese hotel rooms are very small. But, our room was the perfect size and we didn’t feel cramped at all. The bed was comfy and we had ample room for all of our luggage (we did not travel lightly).

From there, we headed out for the night and I loved that the hotel had a great proximity to each part of Tokyo we wanted to visit. They have a cab stand on premises, which was convenient. But even more importantly, they were walking distance to two major subway lines, which is primarily how we got around each day since the trains are clean, fast and efficient and the taxis are super expensive. Being so close to the train stations allowed us to see so much more of Tokyo than we would have from he backseat of a cab.

While we had most of our meals out, the food and drink we had on the premises were both great. One day after an eight-hour sightseeing whirlwind, we came back to the hotel to change and relax before dinner and we decided to unwind with a glass of wine at one of the restaurants. They had a great wine list with California and Australian wines (a bit hard to find in some places Japan). Also, one morning after a very long night of karaoke where we might have been over served, we ordered room service pizza at 10am to help us regain our strengths. Room service was nice enough to make pizza that early for us and it was truly our saving grace.

Between the amazing service and location (also the price was very reasonable for Tokyo) I would absolutely stay at The Hyatt again. It’s a wonderful launching pad to see the city. PS: up next are our Tokyo intermarries and food guides, so be sure to check back.

Ultimate Guide to Brunch in New York City

New Yorkers take their brunches very seriously. And the options are seemingly endless, whether you’re in the mood for farm to table, to boozy, to the brunches where you need to make your reservation months in advance. Brunch is a social event for Manhattanites in and of itself, and can be hard for outsiders to navigate. Years of living here have made us connoisseurs of sorts. Here’s our ultimate guide to where to brunch in NYC. (PS: for most of these spots, you’ll want to make reservations in advance)
FullSizeRender 2
Virginia’s in the East Village is an amazing light-filled brunch spot that is equal parts homey and cool. We went here for a recent brunch and immediately fell in love with the vibe as well as the delicious food.

The brunch menu has a Southern influence, but the dishes are elevated. We started with a stracciatella toast drizzled in honey and aleppo pepper that was delicious. If I were inclined to carbo-load, I would have ordered more of this and had it as my meal because it was so yummy. Then, I had the egg strata with mushrooms cheddar and chives which was satisfyingly salty and decadent. My boyfriend went for the burger, which did not disappoint.

We couldn’t do brunch without some bacon, so we ordered a side of brown sugar bacon that was amazing. A nice perk: during brunch, bottles of wine are half price, which makes it a great place to meet friends or have a brunch date. We also loved the setting with exposed brick and a big window letting sun into the entire restaurant. Virginia’s feels a bit like stepping outside of New York but not sacrificing the quality of food, especially brunch, New Yorkers have come accustomed to.
the-fat-radish-brunch
Fat Radish: This Lower East Side spot is totally instagrammable and is a complete contrast to the surrounding gritty, graffitied neighborhood. You’ll step inside to a delightfully bright farm to table restaurant, complete with flower pots full of fresh flowers and long wooden community tables. Not only is the atmosphere delightful, but the food is amazing. This isn’t the type of place where you’ll want to stick to your diet. Just trust us and splurge on the lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry jam.

Upland: Located in the Gramercy neighborhood, this new spot has a great feel to it. Tons of natural sunlight and creative cocktails. The checkered runners down the wooden tables also make for a very instagrammable backdrop. The burger is a standout, as are the pizzas. The pastas looked great too, although we haven’t had a chance to try them just yet.
-1x-1
Santina: This Meatpacking District hotspot is my go-to for lots of different meals, brunch being one of them. We love the Murano blown glass chandeliers throughout and the fun pineapple cups they serve cocktails in. Bonus points: it’s a great spot for a brunch date. Get the Aperol Spritz pitcher and definitely start with their famous Cecina (Mashed chickpea pancakes with your choice of a spread). From their egg dishes to the Swordfish Dogona (my personal fave dish on the menu) you can’t go wrong.

FullSizeRender 3

Jeffrey’s Grocery: This West Village institution has a cozy atmosphere and farm-to-table feel. The food is well worth their no-reservations policy, which can be frustrating at times, but do yourself a favor and wait it out. We went this past weekend and feasted on their burger, which has racket cheese and brisket in the patty, and my friend said it was one of the best he’s had in all of New York City, which is high praise. The fries were awesome as well. I had their corn omelette, which was also delish. Their bloodys looked great, but I stuck to rosé. Go early, drink at the bar and wait for your table to be ready.

Bar Boulud: On the Upper West Side is Bar Boulud, where food is taken very seriously. This is one of my favorite places to go before a stroll through Central Park. The food here is truly impeccable, and this is a bold claim but their ham, gruyere and mushroom omelette is the best egg dish I’ve ever had, period. We also love their steak and eggs, duck confit with potato hash, and literally everything else on the menu.

The Clocktower: Located in an old clocktower (duh!) in the Flatiron District, we instantly fell in love with the feel of this restaurant. It’s set up with rooms of different sizes and lush décor, like their billiards room and the vintage-inspired bar. The whole restaurant feels distinctly vintage and a bit British, in a good way. The food is equally pleasing. We had the full English breakfast and the aged cheddar omelette, both delicious. Oh, and we had the brioche French toast for dessert (don’t judge!)

The Standard Grill: Located in the swanky Standard Hotel, the Standard Grill has a great brunch and even better brunch drinks. We love the outdoor garden seating on warm days and there’s always a good chance you’ll spot a celeb or two. Some of our favorite dishes: the burger, the soft scrambled eggs, fritata, and their waffle. Added bonus, after brunch head on out to their beer garden for drinks after.

10-estela-brunch1.w750.h560.2x
Estela:Two words – “ricotta dumplings.” Just get this dish and thank us later. The egg sandwich at this Nolita restaurant where President Obama has dined is a standout, too. The plates are small, so order a bunch and share them among friends. The restaurant is super cozy.

Locande Verde: This TriBeCa hotspot is one of my all-time favorite restaurants. It’s extremely chic and is simultaneously the best place for dinner, dates, meals with friends and brunch. That is, if you can get a reservation. The food is great. The drinks are strong. The atmosphere is equal parts rustic and sexy. I also appreciate that the menu has something literally for everyone. Feel like carboloading at brunch? Get the paccheri pasta with rock shrimp and calamari. Want something more healthy? There’s steak tartare or Zucchini frittata. Heck, there’s even cold-pressed juices if you’re on a liquid diet. There are also great desserts and sweet dished like lemon ricotta pancakes. You seriously cannot go wrong with Locande Verde.

Mercer Kitchen:In the heart of Soho is Mercer Kitchen which is a super swank restaurant great for a brunch date or brunch with girlfriends over drinks. It’s dark inside, which seems to promote drinking at all hours. The bar is awesome, the food is great. Start with the meatballs and then move on to their burger or egg dishes.

PS: We’ll be adding to this list, so if you have any suggestions, email styleblogger@gmail.com

Fun Fall Outings from New York City

123_1 2
Fall is by far my favorite season and it’s truly a magical time in New York City. I love the changing of the leaves in Central Park, crisp air and going out to watch football. This fall we looked into some great seasonal activities that don’t require having a car.

We spent this past weekend in Westchester picking apples, pumpkins and taking hayrides. We were looking for a farm with a real country feel but not crazy far away. So, we settled on Outhouse Orchards in North Salem, New York. It takes about an hour and ten minutes by train from Grand Central to get there. Once you get to the train station there, call and Uber and it’s about another ten minutes by car. (There is also another orchard just down the block from it called Harvest Moon if you want to hit up two orchards in one day).
FullSizeRender 8
Outhouse was sprawling and had so many different activities to do. We settled on a hayride, a walk through a corn maze (this was a must since neither of us had ever done it) and apple picking. There were still a ton of apples on the trees, so the timing was perfect.

We liked that Outhouse was really lax about allowing us to bring food and alcohol. Before we headed out in the morning we visited our local market and picked up sandwiches, snacks and a bottle of wine. If you prefer to eat there, they have pizza, barbecue and other food for purchase. It was a seriously perfect day and we were back in the city by 6:30pm. Pro tip: arrange in advance for an Uber to pick you up to take you to the train station because that was the one hiccup.
FullSizeRender 9
After, I used my favorite apple crumble recipe here to cook the fruits of our labor.
IMG_8617
Want to have a fall experience without leaving the city? Head to the Standard Hotel in the East Village. I adore the Standard East Village for fully embracing every holiday and season, and Halloween does not disappoint. They have decorated their beautiful outdoor courtyard with a pumpkin patch and hay and other amazing touches that makes it a delight to sit out back amid the green and orange hues while sipping on fall cocktails such as cider, apple schnapps and hot toddies. We stopped in this past weekend for a drink and stayed longer than we anticipated because the ambiance was so spot on. Added bonus: it’s just a quick subway ride away and their food is spot on if you’re hungry.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays and while I’m pretty much afraid of my own shadow, I also love being scared. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment. So, on Friday night we went to Blood Manor haunted house.

It was super fun and each room in this warehouse has a different theme, like a scary meat market, a 3D maze, a doctor’s office etc. It clowns abound as do men with chainsaws and other characters that pop out at each and every turn.

Our San Francisco Favorites

We spend a lot of time traversing back and forth to the West Coast, and one of our favorite cities is San Francisco. Between the weather, views, history and buzz around the tech industry, it’s high on our list of favorite U.S. cities. I’ve compiled a list of our must-dos overtime I’m in the area:

Food & Drink:
FullSizeRender 4
Leo’s Oyster Bar in the Financial District is toward the tippy top of my dining list. The decor to Leo’s is truly spectacular. Think palm-tree printed wallpaper with dripping chandeliers and gold touches throughout. It’s guaranteed to produce the most perfect Instagram post because each place you turn is super cute and harkens back to a different decade.

We recently had dinner at Leo’s and the oysters are the shining stars on the menu, but the crab and lobster cake with bacon was one of our favorite items, and the shrimp cocktail and tea leaf salad was awesome, too. For drinks — trying the “lunch” martini with picked vegetables. Reservations are a must.

Flores: This Marina District Mexican restaurant is equal parts buzzy and delicious. It is also a stark reminder that California Mexican food is infinitely better than New York Mexican. We ate guacamole, halibut ceviche, carne aside and carnitas, all family style, while sipping on spicy skinny margaritas. Would totally recommend it to readers, as the food is packed with flavor and they have lot of options that are low-carb, high-protein. The decor is also really fun and we liked the lively vibe.

Foreign Cinema: This hotspot in the Mission is a great place for dinner or brunch. It’s indoor-outdoor and features a giant movie screen that plays old films nightly while you eat. The menu has a great raw bar selection and lot of shareable, as well as local California favorites and touches, so the produce that goes alongside the main entrees are really on point.

Locanda: This Mission spot is low-key and unassuming, but the food is anything but. We went here for brunch last Sunday and had a great meal of a breakfast panino, scrambled eggs with the most amazing spicy tomato sauce, hash browns and bacon. We also had pizza bianca with jam. Just typing this is making me want to diet. The Mission area is up and coming, so if you want an excuse to walk around the Mission, Locanda is definitely worthy of that.

Do:
1498604734-A-Night-at-the-Palace-tickets
We spent a night at a new immersive theater experience called “A Night At The Palace,” which was such a fun time. This experience is a mix of theater, lounge, cabaret and gambling, all set in a 1920s speakeasy. I loved that you must dress up in accordance with the time period to attend, so my friends and I set out to find feather headbands, satin gloves, pearls, suspenders and other gear to fit in with the theme. Given the prohibition-era vibe, you check in to the show by meeting on a street corner where a man in a trend coat gives you your “prescription” before being guided to a speakeasy. Everyone stays in character and the decor of the theater looks really authentic and the costumes are so creative.

We stayed at the Palace for around four hours because there was so much to take in. There is a fabulous burlesque and comedy show that is a must-see (make sure to make a reservation) and there is also a casino set up with chips to play roulette, black jack and other games. The experience is very well-executed and you do feel like you’ve been transported back to the 1920s.
FullSizeRender 6
Presidio Park Hike: For a great hike with views of the city and Golden Gate Bridge, Presidio Park has some great trails. We did a two-hour walk that brought us by gilded homes in Pacific Heights, giant redwood trees and a park overlooking the iconic bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge: The iconic Golden Gate Bridge is the ultimate workout (and free to boot). Whether you walk it, run it or bike it, and it is the ideal workout experience because you are surrounded by gorgeous views, meaning your workout will fly by. The trail is 1.7 miles each way, and it is steep at parts. I did stop a few times to take photos (it’s too beautiful not to).

Mission Delores Park: While there’s no true equivalent to Manhattan’s Central Park in San Francisco, Mission Delores Park has been described to me as being in its peer group. This 16-acre park is set on a hill offering great views of the city. It attracts a diverse and young crown, equipped with beers, picnics, music and books. It’s a great way to spend a late morning or afternoon like a local.
FullSizeRender
Clarion Alley: Down an unassuming side street in The Mission is Clarion Alley, an alley dedicated to vibrant street art that is definitely worth a gander. Many of the murals are politically charged (I loved one that read: “Men, Put Down Your Guns) and many are just colorful and beautiful. It’s the perfect spot to find a fun backdrop to stand against for your Instagram.

Napa: Venture an hour outside of San Francisco to Napa Valley or Sonoma to sample some amazing wines. There are literally hundreds of vineyards to choose from (and some great restaurants). To see our complete guide to a day in Napa Valley, click here.

Primp & Prime:
Cinta: For blowouts, look no further than Cinta’s Blow Dry Bar. I recently had the opportunity to be pampered at Cinta at their Grant Street salon and luckily I had a few meetings and a dinner that evening to show off my shiny locks.

After washing my hair, the stylist applied an amazing Kersastase treatment that is meant to add shine to your hair and cut down on frizz. It lasts two months or so and costs $35 at Cinta. After, I got the most amazing swingy blowout with big waves and lots of volume. Benjamin, my stylist, gave me the most amazing brush curls and lots of height at my roots — something I really struggle to do on my own. They have a great menu where you can pick beach waves, a sleek straight style, or other looks for $45.

I love that the Kerastase treatment has lasted weeks later. My hair is shiny and hasn’t frizzed, which says a lot given the humidity in New York City in the summer. I would totally recommend Cinta to friends or visitors in the area. It’s a great spot to go before a meeting (takes less than one hour) and is super chic. Or, you can have a day of pampering with friends before a big night out.

2
Rosewood Sand Hill Sense Spa: For massages, the Rosewood on Sand Hill in Menlo Park is the most amazing and decadent experience. The spa is uber luxe, and the entire grounds at Rosewood are also beautiful. I’ve had countless meals in their restaurant, Madera, and drinks out back on the patio or by their pool.

Their massages are a bit pricey ($165 for 60 minutes), but it’s one of the best massages I’ve ever gotten. After the massage, there is a whirlpool to relax in or you can chill in the garden. They also have a great gym you can access before or after your workout.

Exercise:
Pop Physique: This barre class in San Francisco’s Russian Hill and Mission neighborhoods delivers on every level. The location is ideal, surrounded by amazing restaurants and bars and shopping, meaning you can make your workout social. The studio is flawless and fun, with hot pink barre balls, bamboo floors and fun gear (we love the “Barre so Hard” grippy socks) and most importantly, the class is kick ass. I recently took a class with Maddie and came out sweating. We did a mix of weight work, barre work and core, and your legs will shake throughout, which means your muscles are really engaged. I liked the pace of the class as well because the instructors communicate how long you have left for each move and guide you through the exercises.

Core40: I had no idea what to expect before I went to Core40 for a full-body reformer workout. I left pleasantly surprised (and a bit sore). Located in the adorable Nob Hill neighborhood (but there are a number of locations in SF) is Core40, a light-filled studio filled with 12 megaformer machines that will give you a killer workout. I loved that the class was small in size, and that the instructor went into detail on how to do each move correctly. Even as a newbie, I found myself picking up the moves relatively quickly. We went through a series of exercises on the reformer that worked our core, thighs and arms, doing lunges, resistance work and other exercises. Plus, the music is high energy, which is an added bonus. They also offer a class that is half spin, half pilates which sounded great for those who want to get some cardio.

For our complete guide to boutique fitness classes in San Francisco, click here. For our guides to Napa Valley vineyards, and restaurants, click the pink links.

Staycation: Andaz Wall Street, Financial District


Last weekend, my boyfriend and I did something we’d never done before. We ditched our Manhattan apartments and got a hotel room in Downtown New York at the Andaz Wall Street.

We decided to fully embrace a different part of New York we’ve never lived or stayed in while also checking out a luxury hotel and doing some pampering. It sounded a little extravagant given the fact that we both have our own places, but from the second we checked into the hotel, any doubts quickly subsided and we fully were into the idea.

The Andaz is super luxe and modern. Our room was ginormous, with towering high ceilings, a beautiful layout and just a really sexy vibe to it. We were provided with high-end C.O. Bigelow toiletries, a free minibar stocked with snacks and soft drinks, a deep bathtub and separate waterfall shower that made for a giant bathroom suite.

I really fell for the design aesthetic and unique touches throughout. Behind the television, for instance, is a bench in front of a vanity with a giant mirror that is perfect for doing your hair and makeup in. We used the entire set up as a salon, workspace and kitchen.

There were other unique touches, too. There is a giant bureau that rotates in four different directions, with an armoir, full length mirror, etc. The lighting options in the room were awesome. One button brought down black-out shades to block out the sun. There is also a “relaxed” setting and other options for mood lighting. The hotel hosts a wine happy hour in the lobby daily from six to seven that is complementary. There is also free coffee, tea, cookies, croissants and muffins in the morning, which is such a nice touch.

One of the best parts about the staycation was being able to wander around a different neighborhood for an extended period of time, and checking off restaurants/bars and other sights off of my local bucket list, but also happening upon cute spots.
20170916_141111
Case in point, on Saturday while we were walking to the subway to go to the music festival, we walked down Stone Street, a charming cobblestone street closed off to traffic in the middle of the financial district. The street is lined with charming bars and restaurants with large, wooden picnic tables outside of each to eat and drink al fresco. It happened to be the street’s annual Octoberfest celebration, so in addition to all of the normal fanfare, they had sausage booths and giant mugs of beer set up. So, we grabbed some sausages, beer and took in the scene, eating and drinking in the sun.

If you stay in the area, we came across a local institution that you must visit for amazing, New York style bagels. Just a short walk from the Andaz, is a breakfast spot called Leo’s Bagels. Don’t be frightened by the line, it’s for good reason, because the bagels and their toppings are great. My boyfriend had a really difficult time choosing between the now fewer than 9 times of salmon and lox they had on offer to go on his salt bagel with cream cheese. Oh, for the more carb conscious, they also have flagels and tofu cream cheese spreads.
20170916_230340
One of the most decadent things we did was order room service at 11 pm after a long day out at the concert. And as expected at a hotel such as Andaz, it was amazing. After dancing all day in the sun, we ordered two dirty martinis, a chicken sandwich, seared tuna and buffalo mozzarella with tomatoes. It truly made me feel like Eloise at The Plaza, and something I think we will be repeating at least once every time we explore other staycations.

Cocktails: one of the best cocktail bars in New York City is the Dead Rabbit. And, it just happens to be walking distance to the Andaz. Now, be prepared to wait for a seat at the bar, so put your name down and be patient. The ambiance at this bar is super eclectic and charming (it looks more like a British countryside pub than a bar in the middle of Manhattan), and their cocktails are so creative.
image
There is a giant luxury shopping center nearby called Brookfield, that has great shopping, but also great food. France’s answer to Eataly is there, called Le District, that is a French Market, food hall, cheese monger and wine bar. It also happens to be a great date spot.

More NYC Travel Guides:
Manhattan’s Best Boutique Fitness Classes
The Definitive Guide to NYC
The Best Brunches in NYC

How to Spend The Perfect Day in Napa

IMG_8050
I recently spent a week in San Francisco for meetings and wanted to sneak in some fun, so naturally Napa was on the top of my list. Just a little over an hour outside of San Francisco, Napa Valley is the perfect way to spend a day in the sun with some great glasses of wine. To get to Napa (we were staying in downtown San Francisco) we ordered a Lyft, which is about $100 to the region each way. We obviously didn’t want to drive and drink, and Lyft is also a great way to get from winery to winery once you are in Napa (each ride cost us between $5 and $9). Based on suggestions from friends and research, we arranged for tastings at some amazing wineries. Here’s our itinerary for the day:

Our first stop of the day was Grgich Hills Estate, which has a really rich history. It wasn’t until the 1970s when the wine world took the Napa Valley or even America seriously, and the reason the rest of the world now views California as a premier winemaker is because of the man behind Grgich Hills, Miljenko “Mike” Grgich. Mr. Grgich participated in a blind tasting in Paris where some of the world’s most renowned judges tasted wines from around the world. They decided almost unanimously that his 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay was the best, shocking the wine world.
FullSizeRender 2
At Grgich we tried a number of wines in their tasting room. While I’m usually not a big fan of Chardonnay, I really loved all of their Chardonnays which were very smooth. We even got to try to replica of the Chardonnay that won Mr. Grgich the Paris competition. In our private tasting, we also sampled some delicious Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon paired with the most amazing cheeses that really brought out the flavors of the wine. It was a lovely way to spend an hour while also learning about Grgich’s rich history and importance on the Valley.

The vineyard itself was a lot of fun. They have a wine-crushing event currently going on where you can stand in a barrel and stomp grapes and then step onto a Grgich shirt and leave your footprint.
IMG_8046
Our next stop was the famed Corison, which is run by a rockstar female winemaker named Cathy Corison. Corison is known for their standout Cabernet Sauvignons.

A tasting here is a tough ticket to get, so we were really grateful to have a private tasting and also explore Corison’s beautiful grounds. Cathy has a Master’s in Enology from U.C. Davis and her philosophy is to let the fruit speak for itself. We learned during our tour that the vineyard does not use some of the tactics common in winemaking such as adding chemicals to its wine, but instead has more of a purist approach to winemaking.

I really loved the aesthetic of this vineyard. Out back, you can explore the rows of grapes and taste them while taking in views of the mountains. The tasting room is in beautiful barn and their is another teal-colored house with he most charming porch swing.

In the tasting room we had a lovely experience getting to try the complex flavors of Corison’s Kronos Cabernet Sauvignon and other Cabs (Corison specializes in 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, no blends). We also got to try their Corazon Anderson Valley. Tastings run for $55.
123_1
Our third stop was Duckhorn Vineyards, where we had some amazing wine but also a really fun time. We love the layout of Duckhorn and its fun factor. It struck us as a really great place to come with a group of friends or celebrate a birthday.

Duckhorn’s grounds are picture-perfect. I pretty much had to resist the urge to be on my phone the entire tasting because everywhere you turn is a major Instagram opportunity. Beautiful flowers adorn the grounds throughout and it has this amazingly rustic, barn vibe with aged oak barrels serving as the base for tables and lovely little arches throughout.
IMG_8108
We made a major mistake grabbing lunch at Dean & Deluca before heading to Duckhorn (Although the Dean & Deluca in Napa Valley is legit my favorite Dean & Deluca in the world). I only say it was a mistake because the food at the winery looked awesome. Even though we had just eaten, we got the most delicious pairing of dried fruits, cheeses, cured meats and breadsticks to go with our wine tasting.

We sat on the wraparound porch patio of the stunning estate house while trying a flight of Buckhorn’s best wines and learning about each from the most amazing sommolier — Sam. We adored their Stout vineyard Merlot and Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignons in particular, but everything we tried was fantastic. Tastings start at $35 and our private tasting which included some really special wines runs for $75. I only wish we had more time to explore their grounds and gardens.
FullSizeRender 3
Our final stop (Yes, we did four tastings in one day) was Quintessa. Quintessa’s estate is a bit secluded and has a really cool vibe to it. If you visit, ask them to take you to its highest point on their grounds overseeing their rolling hills — it’s worth the hike. It produced the most beautiful views of Napa that we saw while in the region.
IMG_8314
In a private tasting room, we had the privilege of sampling their Illumination 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, the 2014 vintage (which was our favorite) ad had notes of blackberry and cherry, their 2012and 2011 bottles. All of the wines we tried were complex and really smooth and it was the perfect finish for the day, especially given how beautiful the grounds are.

Quintessa is a newer winery, but they’ve sure learned quick and give a really great tasting experience. Our guide, Joe, was very knowledgeable about each our our tastings and the state of the wine industry in general.

Aside from being great spots to take in the wine and sun, each of the vineyards listed above has their own wine clubs where you get access to special bottles and events.

Hamptons Style Guide

July fourth marks the unofficial start to the Hamptons season, so we decided to pull together the outfits that will be in heavy rotation in our wardrobes this summer from the beach at Gurney’s to Surf Lodge. Think stripes, boho beach vibes and pastels and you can’t go wrong!
FLDL5829_5_1024x1024
I’ve been eyeing this Misa dress FOREVER. It’s super versatile for any sort of beach vacation, but can personally see myself wearing it for dinner at The Crow’s Nest in Montauk. It’s $370.
FLDL5814_1_1024x1024
Yasss to everything about this Misa Tunic dress, $317.
maida-ruffle-skirt-blue-white-stripe-v1
This Tularosa skirt hits on so many trends. It’s fun and frilly, has vertical stripes and has that Hamptons blue and white color combo we are living for.
SL1609455__082
Somedays Lovin has a great boho beach vibe but I love their cuts and find them more fitted than some brands. This midi dress is $140.
TUSCANY_FIRENZE_1
This striped dress is super versatile and the color scheme is on point. Also have really been into this square neckline. It’s $169.
maida-ruffle-dress-white-v1
This off-the-shoulder ruffle dress is great from beach to barbecue to a white party. It’s $158.
170412_FAITHFULL_09_0844
The sleeves on this dress from Faithfull the brand are the showstopper, but we also dig the muted striped print. It’s $169.
MUSTANG_MIDI_COVE_1
The neckline on this Faithfull dress just slays. It’s $169.

Day Trip from Manhattan: Storm King

FullSizeRender 9
As much as I love Manhattan, I itch to get away on the weekends, whether that means heading out East to The Hamptons, going hiking or flying somewhere for a long weekend. So, this past weekend, we decided to get away for the day just an hour and a half north of Manhattan to Cornwall, New York.
20170805_120214
In this upstate town there is a world-class outdoor sculpture garden called Storm King Art Center that is truly breathtaking. Founded in 1960, Storm King is situated on 500 acres of land near the Hudson Valley, and it is home to massive sculptures from artists such as Alexander Calder, George Cutts and Mark di Suvero. The entire place is extremely peaceful (and very Instagrammable).

IMG_7525
There are a few options of getting to Storm King if you don’t have a car to drive yourself. You can take the train, but it takes well over two hours and requires getting a cab from the station. Or, you can do what we did, and take a bus from Port Authority via CoachUSA. For $47 each, you will get transportation right up to the entrance of Storm King as well as a return trip and it also includes your entrance fee to the Center. It’s really great value and gives you more than enough time to explore the entire grounds.

20604625_10101831678174125_8473642689365722481_n
We packed a picnic to eat not he grounds and a bunch of snacks and then set off for the bus ride, which takes 90 minutes door to door. There is also a cafe not he premises if you want to buy food there. We ended up buying wine there, which made the second half of the day a lot of fun.

20170805_125327
This mirror fence was on of my favorite pieces and creates a really fun optical illusion when you take photos in it. If you search Instagram you can see a number of examples of this.
20170805_131459

Vancouver Foodie Guide

Vancouver is a foodie hotspot because of its proximity to the sea and while one a recent trip there, every meal we had was better than the next. Here’s our guide to our three favorite meals.

Tojo’s
unnamed-1
This exclusive, upscale Japanese restaurant is a splurge, but well worth it. The head sushi master, Hidekazu Tojo, is world renowned. He has made sushi for some of the world’s most esteemed people including Prince William and Kate, Steven Tyler, and Harrison Ford. On a recent Saturday, we were lucky enough to get the royal treatment from Tojo himself when we sat down to a private omakase experience at the restaurant.

First things first, Tojo is a lifelong innovator. He left Japan as a young man after learning about Japanese fine dining and began innovating on a centuries-old standard way sushi was made and served. Ever have a California roll? Well, you can thank Tojo. He created the California roll back in the 1970s and was criticized at the time for thinking outside the box. Now, that roll is ubiquitous worldwide.

If you visit Tojo’s, in addition to tried and true classic rolls, you’ll find creations that can’t be found anywhere else in the world, which makes it a truly unique experience.

FullSizeRender 7
We got to watch Tojo in action with his go-to Japanese headband at work behind the long sushi bar. After working diligently, he brought out a platter of creations for us to try. Among those was his famed California roll, smoke salmon, a quinoa (!) roll (yes, you read that correctly), an albacore tuna roll, and a crab roll.

Now, I usually use both wasabi and soy sauce with my sushi, but the quality of the fish as well as the way it was prepared made both of these accessories unnecessary. Let’s start with the salmon roll. Now, heading into this experience, I didn’t eat salmon because I never found it appealing. But, this salmon was world changing. The way the fish was smoked brought out a ton of flavor and it ended up being my favorite dish of the night.

Next, was crab wrapped in egg crepe and topped with fish roe. This was my boyfriend’s favorite roll. The crab has a ton of flavor and the roll it is in is hard to find outside of Tojo’s.

The quinoa roll was so different than anything I’ve ever tasted. It was tied for my second-favorite roll. It had a soybean seed wrap and was filled with quinoa, bell peppers, pickled cucumber, fish, asparagus and other flavors that really popped. It was truly a testament to Tojo’s innovation and his pulse on modern cuisine trends.

The tuna was lightly seared and then marinated in a secret sauce and topped with daikon radish, fresh ginger and onions. It pretty much melted in your mouth and had so much flavor.
123_1
I can’t believe I’m admitting this but even after ALL these rolls, Tojo sent us out two desserts, and we happily ate them. One was a sorbet and the other was an Asian crème brullee, both amazing.

After eating here, I can truly recommend that you make a reservation as soon as you book your flights so that you can guarantee a seat in the restaurant, which is frequently attended by actors, celebrities and politicians. It’s a hard table to secure but worth the effort.

Teahouse In Stanley Park

If you are looking for the ultimate brunch experience, The Teahouse in Stanley Park should be on your “must” list. It’s the perfect way to spend the day and experience several of Vancouver’s tourist activities at once. It’s in the middle of Vancouver’s Stanley Park, which is a beautiful space that I spent a lot of time in during my stay. You’ll see in our prior guide, that we rented bikes to ride around the perimeter of the park and stopped halfway through at the Teahouse for brunch.

The building of the restaurant itself is super charming. It has indoor and outdoor seating, all of which has the water as the focal point. We went for brunch, but am also told that dinner is a great time to go and sit on the patio because it has great views of the sunset.
FullSizeRender 6
After a brisk bike ride in the park where we visited the famous totem poles and saw other sights, we parked our bikes at the restaurant and chose outdoor seating on the patio. After ordering brunch cocktails (mine: a gin cocktail with muddled cucumber, his: a bloody mary with shrimp cocktail garnishing) we set about exploring the menu.

Narrowing down the menu was near impossible because so many of the dishes sounded amazing. With a little help from our waiter, who was amazing by the way, we settled on some Teahouse classics. To start, we had their mussels, which were prepared with tomatoes, garlic, fennel and a white wine sauce. These mussels were ginormous and packed with flavor. Really loved the broth.
unnamed-2
For our mains, I ordered the steak and eggs and he got the duck and waffles. The steak and eggs came with scrambled eggs, a New York strip sirloin and a cabernet demi-glace sauce. It was ridiculously good and I nearly finished it, which is big news for me. The boyfriend’s duck and waffles were equally good, and the amount of food could have fed three people. It came with duck leg confit, bourbon bacon jam, Belgian waffles and a sunnyside up egg. We couldn’t finish all the food even though we gave it a really good try.

I loved the ambiance of the patio. They have heat lamps and blankets if there is a bit of a chill, but luckily for us, the weather was cooperating that day.
FullSizeRender 4
So, while we had raised our white flags and surrendered after brunch, the kitchen sent out not one, but three desserts for us to try. (Sensing a theme here?). We both swore we’d only have a bite of each, but approximately fifteen minutes later there was barely anything left on the plate, which speaks to the skill of their pastry chef. We had the chocolate Milano cake (this was my favorite and I wasn’t even in the mood for chocolate). It had a chocolate mascarpone mousse on the inside and an almond wafer crust. We also had a Tahitian vanilla bean crème brulee (yep, two crème brulees in two days, because vacation) and a lemon tart with candied lemon that had the most perfect lemon curd filling.

Having brunch at the Teahouse was truly a lovely experience. The service was top notch, as was the food and setting. Highly recommend making a reservation and a day of it.

Tuc Craft Kitchen
FullSizeRender 8
In the charming Gastown part of town is Tuc Craft Kitchen, a great restaurant with a rustic feel in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Vancouver. The restaurant has an energetic vibe and communal feel and I really liked the decor with the exposed wood beams and lanterns.

The menu has tons of options. I went solo, so didn’t get to sample a ton, but loved everything I ate. The Cuban style breakfast sandwich was awesome. It could probably feed four people, so might be a good option to share. It had shredded pork shoulder, eggs and tomatillo cream. I went there the day after a wedding so was pretty hungover and craving bacon so I ordered a side of the bacon and wish I could have finished it because it’s exactly what I needed. Definitely appreciated the comfort food after a night out drinking and I’d also somehow gone on a four-mile run that morning miraculously, so felt OK eating carbs :)