On the dawn of National Croissant Day, I thought it only right to do a quick round-up of some of my favorite places to get croissants. It’s no secret that croissants are one of my favorite indulgences in life. I mean the buttery, flaky, chewy goodness is just a taste of heaven on earth. (And after all it is the namesake of this blog!) I’ve had my share of bad croissants, which I won’t speak of in this post, but I will tell you about some of my most coveted.
- Maison Kayser in NYC. I actually didn’t know about this place until after I had gone to the original Eric Kayser in Paris. Boy, was I missing out! The croissants here are just decadent. There are 4 varieties. You have your standard, a pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant), an almond, and if that didn’t entice you enough… A chocolate-almond combo croissant. I personally love the traditional and the almond from Maison Kayser, but I put Mario on to the chocolate-almond and from what I understand he really loved it! Maison Kayser is a chain of French bistros/bakeries with several locations in NYC. I’ve been to 2 of them. One is on the Upper West Side and the other is in Columbus Circle. Both locations have a bakery in the front of the store and dining tables in the back. The breakfast and lunch menus will transport you to Paris. This is also a good stop if you want to bring a special treat to a friend or a soirée!
- Eric Kayser in the Odeon section of the 6th arrondissement on Rue de l’Ancienne Comedie. This is probably one of the most memorable croissant experiences in my adult life. I went for the almond croissant once again. The edge here is that the croissant was served warm fresh out of the oven. I think I totally blocked out the world for a good minute while I blissfully chewed on this treat. There is nothing else like it. I paired it with a cappuccino and off I went to walk it off at The Galeries Lafayette! An unforgettable day it was.
- Chantilly Patisserie in Bronxville, NY. Chantilly is the quintessential French bakery with some of the best macarons, pastries, and yes croissants, that Westchester County has to offer. It’s a small bakery with big taste. I found out about this bakery from my good friend Terri who gifted me with their macarons for my birthday 2 years ago. I’ve been coming here ever since. If you’re looking for real deal French flair, Chantilly does not disappoint. Their pain au chocolat is on point as well as the traditional. What sets this place apart from the rest is the Dulce de Leche croissants which are made to order. They take the traditional croissant, slice it as you would a baguette to make a sandwich, and add the caramel in the middle. It’s rich, but somedays you just need that. Equally yummy are the nutella croissants.
- Last but not least, Trader Joe’s frozen croissants in the freezer section of your local TJ’s. They come in Almond and Chocolate varieties. I recently hosted a little birthday brunch and my friend Brenda at becomebetty.com suggested that I try these. I’m a huge Trader Joe’s fan, but I didn’t expect their croissants to be as good as they were. If I didn’t know they were frozen, I would think they were freshly baked. They come 4 in a pack and they were a huge hit at brunch! I recommend giving them a try the next time you’re shopping at TJ’s. Hint: You have to leave them out overnight to rise. For a better review of these go check out this review.
So that’s all I got for now. Look out for another croissant round-up soon enough! Hope you treat yourself to a decadent croissant this week as it’s still the week of National Croissant Day. Go ahead, you’re awesome, you’ve earned it. Xoxo Ashley
Where do you go for your favorite croissants? Leave a comment and let us know!
the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.
Endurance. Ah, the word alone conjures up thoughts of pain in my early days of running. Those were the days when even a mile seemed like an insurmountable achievement. Once the mile became an easy feat, it was replaced by the 5K, the 10K and so on.
My pain, the struggle to achieve even greater distances turned into victories that have built me up as a runner. Enduring the painful runs of the past allows me to enjoy running today and not see it as an unpleasant task. Experience has also allowed me to become a coach of sorts to new runners that I meet. I now have the years and many miles behind me that allow me to motivate, cheer on and help those who may be in the beginning stages of their running careers.
So why is it that I am talking about endurance today? The word came to me last night after a brief text exchange with Ashley in which we spoke about the daily grind and stress that sometimes accompanies work. I also tied it into the tumultuous past few days that have taken place in our nation.
Endurance for me is not only about running. Endurance is also a large part of daily life. My daily struggles, my daily afflictions and all that I witness taking place in our nation; all of it tests my endurance. But what helps me cope is my faith in God. My relationship with the Lord has built me up in character, confidence and hope.
Of course there are those days where my faith seems to falter, just like there are those days where I can’t seem to get a decent run in. But my faith allows me to get back out there on the next day and have another go at it. As it is with running, it is also the case in life. Enduring hardship makes it easier to take on much more and also allows one to be there for others who are enduring their own difficulties in life.
There are many parallels between running and life. Both come with their own tests of endurance and yes, even agony. Yet experience, perseverance and faith make the journey more tolerable and easier to surmount.
How have you managed to endure times of hardship? We would love you to join the conversation. Please post your experiences and comments below!
So after the first installment of Wine down Wednesday I received a comment from Brenda @ BecomeBettty.com who recommended that I try Trader Joe’s Tarte D’Alsace. Let me just say that I’m very obedient when it comes to food!
The tart looks very enticing from the picture on the box. It is described as a “French style flat bread with ham, caramelized onions & gruyère cheese.” Did someone mention gruyère? That is probably the best way to get my attention aside from the word taco or cats.
The box indicates that the tart should be heated inside a conventional oven at 450°F for ten minutes. That was a good sign because I was in no mood to wait around. I was starving! So off she went for her ten minutes in purgatory inside my little toaster oven.
To accompany this tart I decided to open up a bottle of 2014 Louis Jadot Macon-Villages Chardonnay. This bottle can be had for around $12 and is readily available in most wine shops. This vino hails from the southern part of Burgundy in France. This is chardonnay country where most wines tend to be unoaked, just how I like them. The verdict? Notes of apple, melon and just enough acidity that is rounded off with a clean, crisp finish. I like it!
I was playing the role of IT Department for the blog while waiting for the tart to cook, therefore I lost track of time. Unfortunately it spent a couple more minutes in the oven than I would have liked. By that point the gruyère had dried up a tad so I feel like I didn’t get a true representation of the taste profile.
I did get enough hints of the creaminess from the gruyère, the sweetness of the onions and the saltiness of the ham to get a get a taste of this tart’s potential. I enjoyed the crust which was rather nice and light enough so that it did not sit heavily in my stomach. Then again the box did say that the tart served two… Ha! Yeah right, I ate the whole thing!
I feel like I need to give this tart another try before I come to a full verdict. This tart deserved better and I deserve another tart in the near future!
A big thank you to Brenda @ BecomeBetty.com for the suggestion! Go check out her blog for awesome write ups on a wide range of Trader Joe’s products and other great features.
Your comments and recommendations are always welcome! Keep them coming!
Rest assured, this is not a political post. I’ve seen enough of those in the past few months leading up to the Presidential inauguration to wear my soul down. I’m overwhelmed, I’m concerned, and yet, I’m hopeful.
Saturday morning I awoke to an Instagram feed full of joyful, loving, proud, strong women and men who turned up in droves around the country, and around the world to take part in the Women’s March. If you’ve been living under a rock, the march was organized to support tolerance, inclusion, reproductive rights, civil rights, racial justice, LGBT rights, the environment, wage equality, gender equality, healthcare, and immigrant rights.
I wanted to take the time to write this brief entry, not only to express my joy at seeing all the people who are willing to make a stand, but to celebrate all the people who make this nation of ours the greatest on earth. I’m amazed at the diversity of people that I come across on a day to day basis. Having traveled to other countries, I feel like people are missing out on the melting pot that is the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut Tri-State area. Is the situation perfect? Of course not! But the fact that we are able to come together, share our cultures, learn from and impart a little bit of ourselves on each other is nothing short of amazing.
Additionally I want to celebrate the women in my life. Friends, work associates, family members, they have all impacted me over the span of my life. My mother, my rock, is one of the strongest women I know. She’s taught me so much about life, how to treat everybody equally and with respect. And I would be remiss to mention the women in my running group. Ashley, Dominique, Elise, Maya, Natalii and Patricia. You’ve all taught me a lot about friendship, love and how to be a better person. I thank you all for that.
So let’s keep running with our gaze towards the future, remembering that the race towards equal human rights is a long marathon, but one that can be completed.
It’s very hard to stay motivated to run in the winter months. Although winter brings great opportunity for snuggling in at home, taking some quality time to stay in with loved ones and cook meals together or diving into a good book, it’s also a time when a lot of New Yorkers experience symptoms of seasonal depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Even the acronym is SAD. The days are shorter and it’s not as appealing to go out running in the cold as it is in the beautiful spring or fall months. But on the flip side, running is a way to get those endorphins going to beat that seasonal depression and stay in shape after all that homemade pizza.
Here are some tips for staying motivated to run in the winter:
- Join a running group! Running with others keeps us accountable. This was one of the best choices I made last year. Every Saturday morning I knew the group would be meeting up despite the coldest of temps. It really helped that coffee and croissants were at the finish line too! I found my group, #RunForLife, through my church, but there’s another fun group through Meetup.com called Run and Chug that meets in NYC every Wednesday evening and goes out for drinks after.
- Invest in some warm running gear so that after a few minutes into your run, you don’t even feel the cold anymore! I recently got a new headband, running jacket and lined running tights that not only look great, but feel great and keep me warm even when the temps drop. This vortex jacket from Athleta is quite perfect and on sale now! It’s slim fitting, so there’s no bulk in your way when running. It’s fleece lined and zips all the way up to your chin to keep the draft out. It comes in 3 great colors: black, wild raisin (purple), and chianti. If you get the chianti, it’s only right that you treat yourself to a glass after your run! Don’t forget your gloves. This will make all the difference. If you can’t feel your hands, you won’t be able to high five your friends when you finish!
- Schedule your runs. Running for me is 90% mental. Some days I make every excuse not to go. You have to prepare yourself and maybe even plan out your runs for the week to stay motivated. I schedule at least one run a week on my calendar. I physically write it down so I know when it’s coming and I can’t make any excuses for why I can’t do it.
- Since you’ll have to psych yourself up for getting out of your warm bed and onto the trails, you’ll have to prepare an awesome playlist and start playing it as you’re getting dressed. I’m currently listening to The Weeknd’s Starboy album during my runs and it really gets me going. There are lots of upbeat jams on there to get you hyped. There’s no way you’ll want to stay still once you start listening. May I suggest setting your alarm to False Alarm? It’s sure to get you out of bed!
- Switch up your locale. A change of scenery is always good, and if you so happen to be in NYC for your run there is no better place to do it than Central Park. There are so many people running that loop regardless of snow, sleet, or rain. And if that doesn’t motivate you, there’s always some kind of race going on in the park. Check out some of the shots from #RunForLife’s latest run in Central Park!
I hope this motivates you to get out there and stop making excuses! What motivates you to run or workout in the middle of winter?
It’s no secret that I’ve been on an Alsatian riesling kick for the past few months. The wine is just so tasty and easy to pair with a variety of seafood and poultry dishes. I make sure to always maintain a bottle at home for easy food pairings.
Taking notice of my recent Alsatian wine obsession, Ashley recently surprised me with a box from Trader Jaques (Trader Joe’s) that contained one frozen Alsatian style tarte à l’oignon. (Alsatian style onion tart) I took it as an invitation to do a write up for le blog, so that’s exactly what I’ve done!
Initially I had thought of pairing up the tart with a bottle of 2013 Willm Grand Cru Kirchberg De Barr riesling. But at a $23 price point I thought that it would be overkill to pair up with a frozen tart. So in keeping with the spirit of meals on a budget, I decided to take home a bottle of 2015 La Petite Perrière sauvignon blanc which can be had at a reasonable $10.
The tart comes frozen in its own aluminum tray that can be placed directly in a conventional oven. The directions state that the tart should be cooked for 30 minutes which is just too much time in my book. Nonetheless, I decided to be patient and pop open the wine while serenading the tart with some Radiohead hits on my guitar. (Btw, I think that Decks Dark is just a hauntingly, beautiful song.)
La Petite Perrière comes from the Loire Valley in western France, home to some of the best Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé wines. At $10, one should not expect much, but in my opinion this wine over-delivers! Bright, crisp apple and pear flavors with just the right amount of acidity are showcased in this little sauvignon blanc. The finish is best described as tangy.
After letting the tart cool off for a couple of minutes, I decided to attack it with my new pizza slicer. Thanks Santa! First impression? Quoi? Quelle surprise! It tastes like French onion soup! I’m a big fan so this was just exceptional. The addition of a flaky crust rounded out what I would call a pretty tasty snack. The directions state that it should be served as an amuse-bouche. Umm, no. I’m not that fancy and neither is the tart. So I cut myself an even bigger slice and took it to the living room to watch the Rangers hockey game on TV.
Would I go to my local Trader Jaques to seek one of these tarts out? Not quite. Nonetheless, if I saw it behind the glass at the frozen food section while doing my other food shopping, I would definitely be tempted to pick one up. Recommend!
Have a favorite frozen food or snack that you recommend? Want to see it showcased in a future review? I would love to hear from you! So don’t be shy and please leave some comments in the box below!
This entry is the first in a series we are calling “Wine down Wednesday.” Every Wednesday we will be reviewing a brand new wine. At times the review will include food pairings such as the one in the post above. Want us to review a specific wine? Let us know! We will do it so you don’t have to!
Have you ever tried to make your own pizza at home? If you’re a pizzaholic like me, you may have. Maybe you picked up the premade dough from your local grocery store or pizzeria? I’ve tried that too. I never actually loved the way it came out though…until I made my own dough. This was the game changer and turns out it was a lot easier than I thought it’d be! The little hole in the wall that is Pizza a Casa on Essex street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan will change your pizza making skills from bleh, to oh yeah!!! Not only do they teach you the tricks of the pizza-making trade, they also stock you with some of the best ingredients that NYC has to offer. Just think: melt in your mouth fresh mozzarella (replace the “o” with “oo”, pronounce the “r” as a “d”, and leave off the “a”-mootzadel), aged white truffle oil for the array of dessert pie choices, and TO.DIE.FOR house-made sausage. Delicious doesn’t begin to describe this sweet, spicy, herb-infused, encased meat…WOW!
In this 4-hour class of about 8-10 students, you’re guided by a 20 year pizza making veteran who starts out by teaching you how to make your own dough. As you wait for your own dough to rise, you get to sample some of his homemade pies – four different varieties. This allows you to sample some of the ingredients you might want to add onto your own pies. There’s also an extensive Italian wine list and great local beer selection to sip on while you’re in the pizza-making process. And who doesn’t love wine or beer with their pizza?!?
So after about 40 minutes or so of sampling, sipping, and waiting for the dough to rise, it’s now time to shape your dough. I decided to make a traditional round pie, a heart shaped-pie and two unfortunate, but nonetheless delicious, misshapen pies. You can choose the kind of pie you want to make from a menu of pizza possibilities, or you can make your very own creation. Options include Margherita, the NYC Classic, a Pear and Blue Cheese pizza and many more. Don’t forget about the sausage. Did I mention that already?
This isn’t your average pizza-making class, but well worth the time and money. You also get to take home the pizza-making manual complete with oven etiquette, recipes, and all of the tips you’ll need to make your very own pizza. After taking the class two months ago, my boyfriend and I finally made our own pizza a casa with great success! If you can’t make it to the class, check out DIYpizzapie.com to download Pizza a Casa’s pizza-making app. Also, visit their store to find all the tools you’ll need to prepare your very own pizza a casa! What are your tips and tricks to making the best pizza a casa? Comment on this post to let us know!
My solo runs are always a mixed bag of surprises. One day I’ll hit the road with little to no energy, or just feeling blah, and next thing you know I’ll have 10 miles in the bag. I have also experienced those days where I’ll have all the energy in the world, but then I’ll hit the wall and have to pack it in after 3 miles.
Is it my body, or is it a whole lot of mind games? I have found that consistency has a lot to do with me running alongside somebody. A run with a partner, or with my small group always yields great results with seemingly little effort. I’m always able to finish what I set out to do without much thought. Why isn’t this the case when I run alone?
According to an article in Runner’s World titled, “Perks of Running Solo or Social,” one of the biggest gifts that a running partner, or group can provide is accountability. So knowing that you have set a time to meet with your partner or group will motivate you to get out there, even if it means getting out of bed at 5am.
The same article states that accountability leads to peer pressure. In the article, Cindra Kamphoff, Ph.D., a sports psychology consultant at Your Runner’s Edge says, ”When you run with others, you tend to give more effort. You get caught up in the pace, and you might not recognize how fast you’re going.”
I have also found that running with a partner allows for a solid source of support, encouragement and inspiration. Sometimes all three elements arrive while chatting during, or after our run. Our talks can range in topics from running, relationships, spirituality and yes, even food. Interestingly, at times those runs can be done in complete silence because nothing needs to be said. Both are okay in my eyes.
In the end, I feel that running in a small group or with a partner can lead to some beautiful friendships. Maybe this is the key to the consistency that I’m unable to find in my solo runs. In the end there’s nothing like spending quality time with the stinky, sweaty people who you love!
Do you feel a difference between running by yourself versus running with others? Any preference for one over the other? We would love to hear your comments below!
This piece launches our weekly Motivational Monday theme. Each Monday we will be posting motivational pieces to get your week started on the right foot. Topics will vary from running, travel, spiritual topics and yes, maybe food! Food does inspire, no?!
“I’m a runner,” I said. “What?” Ashley responded. “I finally consider myself a runner,” I said with a smile.
I’ve enjoyed running for all of my life. Way back in elementary school I would look forward to doing the mile run as part of The Presidential Fitness Test. The best time meant that your name would be added to a plaque on a wall of the gym. My name was, and could possibly still be there for all I know. Throughout middle school and high school, I would challenge myself, always striving to improve on my fastest mile.
Later on, my running became a hobby, a way to get out there and get some exercise. It also became a way to expend built up energy, in addition to clearing my mind. But all along, when people would ask about my running, I would respond with a simple, “I run.” Yes, I run often. Yes, I have dedicated running gear. Yes, I belong to a running group. Yet I had never really considered myself a runner.
So what changed? Years ago, on New Year’s Eve, I happened to stumble upon the Midnight Run held in Central Park. The run is held yearly by the NYRR. (New York Road Runners) I looked in awe as thousands of runners danced to live music to keep warm until the start of the race. They were all laughing, dancing and having a great time. It was right there that I told myself that I would take part in this race sometime soon.
Each subsequent New Years eve turned out to be filled with fun parties, or some sort of get-together. Yet I always had the thought of taking part in the midnight run. So this year, I decided to skip a party and crazily head out to the city at 8pm on New Year’s eve. I looked like a crazy person, decked out in running gear while the other Metro North riders from Connecticut were all decked out in fancy party regalia.
Leaving Grand Central Terminal turned out to be a fun experience. People would stop me and ask me if I was taking part in the race. I even had some New York City cops stop me on the sidewalk to wish me luck. The atmosphere became more fun as I noticed many more runners beginning to gather near the park.
In Central Park, I met two Polish brothers who had come all the way from Chicago to take part in the race. I also met two cute Brazilian women who hung out with me until midnight. The race turned out to be a challenging four miles due to the hilly terrain. The race was fun, featured many wild characters dressed in costumes and was attended by thousands of people who cheered us runners on from the sidewalk. Somehow at the end I managed to post a respectable time.
On the train ride home, I reflected on my crazy night which started out in Connecticut, continued in Manhattan, and saw me in bed by 4am after a four mile run in the middle of winter. The fact that I went out of my way to attend such a race, experience the fun, and take on the course with complete strangers finally convinced me to call myself a runner. Yes, I’ve always been a runner. I just needed to convince myself that I was worthy of the label.
So I want you, the reader to reflect on your hobby, your pastime, or your activities and see if you label yourself a train collector, a cook, or a runner, like myself. You might label yourself as someone who collects trains, someone who cooks, or just someone who runs. But in reality, if you’re passionate about the things you do, and they bring joy and satisfaction to you, you are definitely worthy of the label.
Ever experience something like this? A sudden realization that you are defined by all the different aspects of your life, personality and actions? Leave a comment below!
It’s just over a week into the new year and it’s still a great time to reflect on all of the blessings you’ve had in the past year and to think about the plans and intentions you want to manifest for the upcoming year. January is an exciting month, not only because it’s my birthday, but because it sets the stage for how I will live out the year. So in keeping with the spirit of wanting to inspire the readers who stop by this blog, I looked back on the past year and picked out one of the major changes I made that carried me through one of my best years yet!
In 2016 I focused a lot on acceptance and self-love. To me they go hand in hand. Accepting and honoring where you are in life is a practice of self-love. I know we all have a lot of expectations about where we want our life to go and where we want to be personally and professionally. Yet, timing doesn’t always work out how we’d like it to. I read somewhere about the idea of an expectation hangover. In other words, when your expectations and reality don’t line up, you get really down on yourself and can’t embrace the present circumstances. When in the grand scheme of things, it may be that you have more to learn before you can move on.
A real, authentic life starts with acceptance of where you are. You may not be where you thought you’d be at this age or stage of your life. Accept it and embrace the here and now. Too often we judge ourselves against our own expectations or compare ourselves to others instead of accepting and appreciating our own journey. There will always be someone who is smarter, more successful, blah blah blah. Stop comparing! Instead, honor the accomplishments you’ve made in your lifetime. Don’t get down on yourself just because you’re not where someone else is, or where you expected to be right now. Get rid of the expectation and simply accept where you are. Accept your body the way it looks today. Look in the mirror and tell yourself out loud, “I love you!” You can show kindness and generosity to everyone around you, but don’t forget the person in the mirror looking back at you.
Practice kindness toward yourself with small gestures. Treat yourself to a yoga class. Forgive yourself for something you shouldn’t have said or for that second piece of cake you ate. Share some of your own accomplishments with others around you and take credit for how bad ass you are! People will start to notice, and it will be contagious, making you and those around you a lot happier.
Be number one with yourself
Treating oneself with love and kindness can be a challenging task, especially in this competitive world we live in today. Self-love wasn’t always my strong suit, and it took me a long time to get here. Thankfully, a wise woman once told me “You gotta be number one with yourself.” This was some of the best advice that I’ve received and it serves as a constant mantra when I doubt myself, take on too much, or put someone else’s feelings before my own. This year taught me that if you don’t love yourself, you simply won’t have the capacity to love others.
How do you practice self-love? How are you accepting your current situation and making the best of your present life? I encourage you to write this down somewhere and read it often. And if you’re really brave, I’d love for you to share it in the comments below!