Poughkeepsie: Nic L Inn

If there’s one thing I love to do, it’s trying new things. I like to think of myself as a good sport about the things I’m less excited about, but for those things that seems foreign but fun/interesting, I’m all about it. Take for example 2 years ago, when I was diving for spiky sea urchin only to open them up with a knife and slurp them down. Different, but one of the cooler experiences I’ve ever had.

Less cool is when I go out and try new restaurants. (I swear my life revolves around eating and I swear I’m not mad about it.)

The Nic L Inn in Poughkeepsie is a place I’ve passed by a few times only to ever immediately say, “we should really try that” and today, we finally did. Am I jumping for joy that it was able to make a believer out of a creature of habit who knows what he likes and doesn’t care to know much else? You betcha. Is the only reason we went there because I decided against moving and could therefore save a bunch of money? Also, you betcha!

I’d normally be more into the photo game of each course when it comes to food and places I like, but I was so into the meal and my sweet company that I only managed to grab two. Recommendations based on other courses we ate (read: devoured) would be the Dijon & Cracked Peppercorn Marinated Skirt Steak, Peach and Bourbon Cheesecake, and Brownstone Merlot.

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The Local Board: Sprout Creek Toussaint, Creek Kinkead and Creek Margie served with local honey, strawberry preserves and pistachios.
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Cavatelli Aglio e Olio with housemade (!) chicken sausage, sun dried tomatoes, grilled eggplant, broccoli rabe and ricotta.

My New York Story

…Because everyone in this city has a “how” or “why”

I traveled through New York City by way of Penn Station pretty frequently in college, but I had never really experienced it. It wasn’t until I mastered the arrival and departure times of trains to Old Saybrook that I figured out a way to carve out even just 30 minutes to step above ground and into what I considered (at the time) to be a beautiful chaos of people, cars, and opportunity. That day, I walked about as far as the Post Office (which is literally across the street) before running out of time, but that was enough for me. I knew then that the next two years of my college career would have to be molded differently. I knew then that I needed to work hard, save money, and figure out what it was I wanted to do with my life so that I could eventually land a job in the city.

After graduating, and after a short stint in Charlotte for an internship, I went back home to Western New York to plan my next move. Left and right, my friends were getting jobs and making their moves while I stood behind a counter asking people if they’d like an extra shot of espresso. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my part time job and was incredibly grateful for it. But, it wasn’t the career I wanted in the big city.

That summer, I dedicated hours each day to resume building, revising, revising some more, practice interviewing, practice interviewing some more, until months later, it seemed to have finally paid off; I got a call for an interview in the city. It was for a sales job which wasn’t exactly anything I was looking for, but I was desperate. (You get that way after hearing nothing but rejection.) I spent several weeks and hundreds of dollars traveling to and from the city, leaving after my 10pm closing shift in the cafe, and driving myself to Albany to overnight and hop on an early morning Amtrak to make a 9am interview. But, it seemed to have paid off because I wound up getting an offer. I needed to negotiate my start date to comply with a two-week notice to give my current job, but I got the offer.

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The proceeding days were filled with nothing short of elation and planning. I worked hard, and it paid off. I was exhausted, but it paid off. I was incredibly poor at this point, but it somehow paid off.

But, my elation soon faltered. On my birthday, which was just one week before I was set to pack a bag and figure it out (still didn’t know where I would live), I received an email from the hiring manager telling me that they couldn’t accommodate my start date request and therefore had to rescind the offer.

I was crushed. I felt like I had hit a wall and despite my valiant effort at re-negotiating, they were firm (and pretty unprofessional, considering the company is now out of business) about the whole matter. That night, I was set to go out with friends and family for my birthday. Friends and family, who were all excited for me to begin this new journey in a new city. I didn’t have to heart to tell them because I hardly had the heart to admit it to myself.

After eventually coming clean, I decided to just make the move anyway. I had saved enough, I thought. I would figure it out. Plus, it would be a lot cheaper (and less exhausting) than traveling to and from for interviews here and there. I had to be local. It was my last-ditch effort that my Dad so lovingly dubbed, “Sink or Swim” or, “SoS”.

Thankfully, I had family living close by in New Jersey at the time, so I wasn’t totally on my own just yet. I still had to commute, but fortunately not as far as before. I knew I was inching my way closer to my goal, but it was a slower process than I had anticipated.

I sat on the NJ Transit one morning, and despite heading into the city for an interview, I was starting to feel drained. I was running low both on cash and drive as more time and rejections went on, and I remember that morning I was specifically feeling it. The air was humid, the hair I had just spent two hours on had thus expanded to a new zip code, my skirt shifted from being front facing to back facing, and I was just about ready to turn around and head back. But instead, I fell asleep.

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After waking up to an abrupt stop upon reaching Penn Station, I quickly gathered my resume, did what I could with my hair, and re-shifted my skirt to a less awkward position before standing in line to disembark. After waiting in line for what felt like longer than usual, my eyes wandered about the train and I noticed an elderly woman drop her bag as she was changing her footwear from sneakers to a gorgeous pair of ballet flats. I immediately knelt down to pick up her bag, and on my way up, complimented her shoes. They really were beautiful.

We spent the next five or so minutes chit-chatting about what we were both doing in the city that day; she visiting her son and I looking for a job for the 8th time in a row. After saying goodbye, I picked up my own bag and took my place in the mass exodus walking into the heart of the station.

It was then that I felt a tap on my shoulder, coming from someone whom I could tell was very tall. I was immediately frightened. Did I drop my phone? Was someone about to mug me? Ask for money? What is going on?

I turned around and was confronted by a Jewish man in his 60’s who had apparently overheard my conversation with the elderly woman on the train. “I wanted to let you know that I was very moved that you took such an interest in helping and talking with a total stranger. It’s not often you see that. I also heard you mention you were looking for a job in Marketing.”

Just then, the clouds parted. Doves began flying overhead. After all the work I’ve put into the job search, could one random, genuine conversation with a stranger have been what would help me land a job?

As it turned out, the man happened to be the Director of Marketing at a hospital in Manhattan, so he was really eager to help get me started. I met with him at his office later on that day to walk him through my resume, and he explained that he’s a father himself and knows how difficult it was for his own kids to find jobs after school – especially in the city. He gave me the pep talk I needed to hear after months of trying to no avail.

While he didn’t have any Entry Level roles (at all, ever) in his office, he was able to point me in the direction of agencies he had connections with and within less than a month of waiting tables, I was employed at a Digital Marketing agency. The happiness I felt the day I got my offer was unlike anything I’ve ever felt.

Three years later, and that happiness hasn’t subsided. Not one bit.

Recipe: Blueberry Margaritas

It’s not too often you’ll find me with a glass of anything in my hand other than wine, but after a solid hour of blueberry picking with friends in the Finger Lakes, I opted for something a little different. Just one day short of #NationalTequilaDay, I made a fresh batch of Blueberry margaritas to go with the taco night I requested for my birthday. (Major shoutout to my best friend for making my birthday dreams come true 😂!)

Anyway, this margarita is ridiculously easy to make, and tastes like you spent all day on it. Okay… maybe not that long… but you get the picture. Check out the recipe below and try it for yourself!

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One batch | Serves 4

1 cup fresh blueberries

Juice of 1 Lime

1 and 1/4 cup tequila

6 tablespoons agave nectar

Optional: dash of orange bitters

Mint leaves

Ice

Directions: Rub the rim of the glasses with a lime wedge before flipping over to coat in sea salt. Add ice. In a cocktail mixer, muddle together the blueberries and lime juice until the blueberries are all crushed and the juice turns a dark purple color. Next, add the tequila, agave nectar and bitters (optional). Once that’s done, give everything a good few shakes and pour into the glasses. Last but not least, add a few sprigs of mint to the top and serve.

Under Construction

Hello, friends! By the grace of God, (and with a little compensation) I’ve met some coding wizards that are going to (hopefully) take Jules and Java to new heights! Aka, this layout is getting a re-do. I’m so excited to share what’s to come, when it comes… so stay tuned!

My Favorite NYC Restaurants to Take Out-Of-Town Guests

There’s a plethora of restaurants that exist on this big (but actually little) island of ours, and half the joy of living here is never having to go to the same place twice, unless you really want to…and unless you have guests in town looking for a place you’re 100% sure about. With that said, here’s a list of some of my favorite spots in Manhattan (and a little Brooklyn). Keep checking back, because I update this list regularly.

The Smith

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Photo Credit: @r32dbp

What I really appreciate about The Smith is that their menu is expansive enough that your guests are guaranteed to find something they like. My favorite meals here have been the flounder as a main, brussel sprouts as a side, skillet macaroni and cheese as an app (the best I’ve ever had next to my dad’s homemade) and any and all of their spicy tequila drinks. You can’t go wrong with anything I’ve listed above, promise!

Bar Primi

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Don’t tell my Nonna, but it’s not too often you’ll find me eating a dish of pasta these days. Growing up, pasta was really all we ate, along with maybe a salad and some kind of meat (in that order). So in those far and few between moments that I am craving a taste of home, Bar Primi is one of my go-tos. Stay tuned, because I have a few of these places to list!

Felice Wine Bar & Ristorante

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Photo Credit: @coffeeandchampagne

I took my mom, aunts and cousin to Felice on Gold Street over a recent ladies weekend.  I hadn’t been there before, but it was located relatively close to the area of the financial district we spent the majority of the cold afternoon touring our way through. Inside we were welcomed by thick Italian accents and a warm, romantic ambiance incomparable to any other place I’ve been to in FiDi.

EATS on Lex

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I have taken every single person that has ever visited me in the city to EATS on Lex, a neighborhood spot I discovered while exceptionally hungover the morning after my birthday party. What I love about EATS, aside from it being close to my apartment, are the drink specials for Sunday brunch, delicious Eggs Florentine (my absolute favorite breakfast), and I can’t forget what they’re known for, their oysters.

JG Melon

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All I have to say is that this is the best burger I have ever eaten at. Your guests will overlook the smaller interior and semi-noisy space because the food is just. that. good.

Brook-Vin

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Photo Credit: @rachelschwartzmann

When any wine lovers come to town for a visit (I know a lot of these), the first place I take them is Brook-Vin. Located in picturesque Park Slope, this cute spot is home to the best selection of wines (of course) and small plates. Also perfect for a first date, if you ask me 🙂

Recipe: Baked Potato Soup

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This hearty (yet, Skinny) baked potato soup hits the spot when the weather gets a little chillier. There’s nothing I love more than a Sunday at home with both the game and the crockpot on.

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 medium russet potatoes, washed and dried
  • 1 small head of cauliflower, stem removed cut into florets
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups 1% reduced-fat milk
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • shredded organic cheddar cheese
  • chopped chives
  • 3 slices nitrate-free bacon (for those of us with migraines trigged by nitrates), cooked and crumbled

How To Make It:

  1. Pierce potatoes with a fork; microwave on high for 5 minutes turn over and microwave another 3 – 5 minutes, until tender. Or if you prefer to use your oven, bake at 400° for 1 hour or until tender. Cool. Peel potatoes.
  2. Meanwhile, steam cauliflower with water in a large covered pot until tender. Drain and return to pot.
  3. On medium heat, add chicken broth, milk, potatoes and bring to a boil.
  4. Use an immersion blender to puree until smooth. Add sour cream, half the chives, salt and pepper and cook on low another 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Remove from heat. Ladle 1 cup soup into each bowl.
  6. Top each serving with 2 tbsp cheese, remaining chives, and bacon.

(Recipe via SkinnyTaste)

 

NYC: Tips Before You Move Here

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To broker, or not to broker: While it’s true that there are ways to relocate to and around New York City without the help of a broker, utilizing one makes the process incredibly easy. Having moved here with nothing more to my name than a couple thousand dollars and a suitcase, I wasn’t looking to waste too much time finding a place to live. Not to mention, my first gig here was waitressing, and there’s little time in between serving a New York City lunch rush to speak and negotiate with property managers. So for me, having someone essentially manage the move and conduct the search while I had to work definitely helped me sleep better at night. But, if you have more time and patience than I did, give StreetEasy a try.

Give everything a test run: Before signing ANY paperwork, test faucets, toilets, the stove, oven, air conditioning (if included) and smoke alarm. You may or may not be surprised that not everyone is trustworthy, and often times people sign for apartments before realizing that the gas line isn’t connected, the faucets don’t work, etc. Be careful!

Which neighborhood to choose: I chose the Upper East side strictly for affordability, a term I’ve come to understand is pretty relative considering location. It’s unlikely to find a 2-bedroom in this city, regardless of size, to be under $2,500. The first few years you’re here, you’ll want to save as much as you can on rent. But, once you become a bit more established and find yourself working farther away from where you live, you’ll likely consider biting the bullet for the sake of convenience and make a move. Things to consider: where you work, where you play, and where you like to hang out on Sundays. Sometimes it’s worth it to spend less on cabs and transportation after a night out or a day at work, and more on a place to live.

How to cut costs: It’s a matter of picking your battles when it comes to what’s most important to you in a living situation, and coming to terms with the fact that you can’t get everything you want here and still collect paychecks worth more than your monthly rent. For example, you might value a place with a lot of natural light and smaller rooms that’s farther from work over a place with dim, yellow lighting and huge rooms located a little closer to work. Location aside, you can typically get more of what you’re looking for aesthetically by searching in a neighboring burrough. It could be a longer commute, but again, it’s all about choosing your battles wisely.

How much did you save before moving here? Everyone’s situation is a little different. While I worked all throughout college to save a little money, I was also fortunate enough to have help from my grandmother, who left all of her grandchildren with a little something when she passed away. I think she would have been happy to see that I used it to chase my dreams.

Decorating on a budget: Take your time, but prioritize the important things. I had an air mattress and a blanket when we signed for the apartment, so the first thing I knew to get was a bed and a dresser. From then on, I bought things little by little. My room didn’t feel like a room for at least three months, but it came together eventually with the help of Ikea, flash sales, a lot of patience, and a steadily increasing bank account. Once you come to terms with the fact that you’re not above a good sale or flea market, decorating becomes much easier. Your room should be your haven at the end of a hard day. You deserve a relaxing, home-y feeling space that is yours. Little by little, work toward that goal.

If you have any tips you think I’ve left out, feel free to share in the comments. The more the merrier!