Chocolate Chip Day in LA

In the spirit of National Chocolate Chip Day, this Thursday May 15th we are comparing the classic chocolate chunk Pizookie at BJ’s to one of Los Angeles’ most recent talked about chocolate chip dispensaries – Sycamore Kitchen. The Pizookie is a signature dessert at BJ’s. It is brought to your table in aluminum tin with which it was cooked and a scoop of vanilla ice cream right on top.  The cookie is so warm that the chocolate chunks are oozing out of the cookie crust surrounding it. The chocolate chunk combined with the doughiness of the inside making you makes this soft pastry melt right in your mouth. This sweet sensation is the perfect chocolate chip dessert.

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Another chocolate chip cookie that has been getting a lot of buzz in the LA area is at Sycamore Kitchen in Hollywood California. This cookie experience was a sweet sensation! On first bite, I was taken aback by the dark chocolate chips that had an undertone of bittersweet coffee. With each bite I could taste the complex flavors of the chips and a hint of sea salt on the top crust. This was such a great compliment to the multifaceted and dense flavors presented in this cookie. Salty and sweet are a classic and always amazing combination in food. The part of the cookie I loved the most was the core of it. The center was made up of melted chocolate chips that eventually hardened in the cooling process. It was so dense in chocolate that the actual inside of the cookie was a dark brown, almost resembling the color of black licorice. This never tasted before blend of chocolate flavor was incredible – I loved it!

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Written By Sarah Liss:  A current undergraduate at the University of California Riverside, majoring in Ethnic Studies, this food lover knows her way around a menu. Her background as a biracial woman has not only made her interested in her own cultures, but also the cultural experiences of others around her. She is very perceptive, analytical and compassionate. These core characteristics helped her to see how food isn’t just nourishment, but a threshold into others’ lives.

 

Aveiro: The New Venice

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Simple life in Aveiro

Aveiro, Portugal, is well-known as the Portuguese Venice. It’s possible to be close to the sea, river, saline, an advanced university, and assorted pastries – all in one! If you like vintage and colored architecture, calm people, classy restaurants and, of course, history, Aveiro is the city!

Aveiro is an urban port, rail, university and tourist center. Although small, it has many options for things do!  As in all almost Europe the Euro is the principal coin – so be sure to bring the right currency to enjoy the city.

How to get there? Since Aveiro is to Coimbra and Port, it’s an easy train or bus ride from one of those destinations. If you are coming from Lisbon, the best way is by bus, and if you have no other way but to use an airport the best option is to land at Port and take a train from there.

What to do inside a calm and colored city like Aveiro? You probably will not need any public transport within the city, because you can cross it on foot. But, if you need to rent a BUGAS (Bike Free use of Aveiro) you can cycle around the city!

1 – If you have ever wondered about the beautiful Portuguese ceramic tiles, the first place you have to go is the Train Station. There you can find some geometry and a touch of history, not to mention that usually you can see some amazing cars or motorcycles!

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One of the buildings at the Train Station

2 – Walk through the streets, and stop in one of the bakeries to try traditional pastries of Portugal. In Aveiro, there is a lot of different candies and plates, like Raiva, Ovar, Caldeirada de Enguias. Ovos Moles is highly recommended. Ovos Moles is translated as Soft Eggs, because it is made with yolks and sugar. You should try one of those!

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     Charming streets                                 An old man and its violin

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Ovos Moles

3 – The Ria of Aveiro is just a walk away where you can get a tour on Portuguese gondolas.  The boatmen will amuse you with funny and ancient stories about the city and you can enjoy the soft weather at the same time.

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Ria de Aveiro

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Sightseeing Aveiro on Gondolas

4 – Aveiro also has incredible churches and museums, such as Aveiro Cathedral and Aveiro Museum. The Aveiro Museum is situated inside a convent, featuring ancient religious history with samples of Baroque and Rococo art. If you are interested in modernity, visit the Museum of New Art, but don’t confuse the name, this building is not a museum. It is a colorful location where you can relax, eat cake and drink tea.

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Museum of New Art

5 – After a long day you probably want to eat, drink or buy something else! A great destination for all of the above is Fórum Aveiro – a beautifull mall at the bank of the river. It is an open air space with many stores with plenty of artistic details including geometric art on the floor and walls. It is an amazing place to rest and to see locals in their daily life.

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Forum Aveiro

6 – There are two more must see places to visit during your tour in Aveiro: the Saline of Aveiro and the Lighthouse of Barra. To go to these places you should take a car or book a tour because they are located outside of Aveiro itself, but still inside the Aveiro District.

The Saline is older than Portugal itself as a united country and the exploration of the salt is still one of the main economic activities of this area. You can collect huge salt pyramids almost at any time of the year – don’t be shy, taste it!

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The Saline of Aveiro

The Lighthouse of Barra is the biggest lighthouse in Portugal, the second largest of Iberian peninsula, and the 26 largest in the world. This lighthouse is 216.54 ft above sea level with a height of 203.41 ft. It is at Barra Beach, in Ílhavo and is open to the public only on Wednesday afternoon.

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The Biggest Lighthouse in Portugal

Back to the city you can hang out downtown at night.  You might try a classy dinner in one the lined restaurants or party all night in one of the night clubs!

Aveiro is a small city, but is open to tourists around the world. The people who live there are very welcoming, cozy, and even with a language barrier can always communicate simply with a smile!

Written By Clarissa Mesquita, from Paraíba, Brazil. This lovely lady is addicted to TV shows and movies, and enjoys fitness, fun and photography. She also loves pets and participates in an NGO to save homeless animals. Clarissa graduated with a degree in Social Communication from the Federal University of Paraíba, Brazil, and is amazed with her new yellow brick road!

Spring in New York City

Spring is in the air and if you live in New York City, it couldn’t come any sooner. After suffering through a dismal winter full of snowstorms that came as frequently as your weekly trash pick up, just a hint of warmth in the air probably has you salivating at the thought of picnics, strolls in the park, and outdoor concerts. Luckily, NYC offers a wide range of activities for the month of April that are less demanding of the pockets and full of spring fun.

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Check out what has become the unofficial first sign of spring: the blooming of the cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden located at 990 Washington Ave, at President Street in Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden holds a collection of approximately 220 cherry trees on display, one of the largest in the country, and you can enjoy the beauty (and smell) of springtime through various tours or exhibits offered throughout the month of April.  You can also plan your visit around the exact stage of bloom you wish to see by tracking the blooming progress of these beautifully delicate flowers through the garden’s online CherryWatch Blossom Status Map.

Note: Tours typically take place every Wednesday at 1pm and Saturday at 11am. Prices range from $10 for adults to free for children under the age of 12

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Feeling dramatic? Well, the Tribeca Film Festival may be just the event for you. The festival takes place April 16th to April 27th, and this year Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea will be the host. Not only will you be able to see some incredible independent films that range from documentaries to narrative features and shorts, you may just bump into a celebrity or two, including one its founders, Mr. Robert De Niro, himself.

Note: Here’s the film guide for a complete listing of films featured this year as well as the event guide, where you can find a list of events that are happening during the two week festival.

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If you want to usher in the spring with a toast, head over to Studio Square in Long Island City on April 25th and check out the Five Boro Craft Beer Fest. This indoor/outdoor event features 33 brewers from across all five NYC boroughs that will serve over 300 craft beers, some of which are specially brewed for this event and have never been tasted.

Note: Doors open at 7PM and all attendees must 21 years of age or over.

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For all the foodies out there, the 27th annual Taste of the Nation NYC is the perfect event to indulge in savory dishes and drinks from over 75 of the city’s most renowned chefs and bartenders. Located at 82 Mercer, this event is a little pricey but it’s for a good cause. Proceeds will go towards the No Kid Hungry network, a program dedicated to extending access to food for millions of low-income children across the nation.

Note: The event is held on April 28th. General Admission is from 7-10PM. Tickets can be purchased directly through the No Kid Hungry network’s website.

Tamara Jenkins is a real Jersey girl. She’s independent, opinionated, and loves her sports. When she’s not watching her favorite teams, she’s reading, practicing yoga or working on a few books she hopes will get published one day. She also may or may not be training for a 5k race. With a belief that life is what you make of it, Tamara doesn’t merely want to survive life; she wants to live it.

Sqirl

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Sqirl is a breakfast and brunch restaurant south of Silverlake on Virgil Ave that embodies everything a woman could ask for. It’s a cornerstone establishment that has health conscious food, a tastebud friendly menu, peanut free facility (which made me feel relieved since I am extremely allergic to peanuts), and who gets their produce from sustainable and local LA farms. I was sort of in awe when I walked into this place. The restaurant was consistent in ambiance, from the interior design to even the customers who were eating there. Everyone had a style and smile on their face.

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Ordering at the counter I decided to try all I could afford to get my mouth on. I first ordered the Kokuho Rose Brown Rice Bowl, which consisted of Sorrel Pesto (nut free), Preserved Meyer Lemon, Lacto Fermented Hot Sauce, Black Radish, French Sheep Feta, and a Poached Egg placed on top. For 7.50 this bowl of sheer goodness was layered with bright flavor. The rice itself was floral tasting, hence the name rose, and it had sorrel pesto mixed within it, with a distinct taste of cilantro base. The French sheep feta was light and fluffy but still had a mass to it that could melt in your mouth with a salty effect. The poached egg was perfectly runny and once it was mixed in with the other components of this dish I was blown away. It was refreshing and light and did not lack any flavor, seasoning or savoriness to it. It was truly made to perfection.

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Next I had a brioche with ricotta and the daily special jam – already this sounds amazing. The brioche was not oily from butter but instead was flaky and almost airy from its fluffy inside. The layer of deliciousness put on top of the toast was the ricotta, which I could say was equivalent to arroz con leche (rice with milk). That is a classic south of the border dish, which is basically a sweet and creamy rice pudding. The ricotta mirrored this and gave a sort of ice cream effect on top of bread. Next was the daily jam, which was blackberry for that day. From my experience blackberries are usually tart, but this jam was able to have those bits of berry and not resemble any of that flavor. It instead it had the wonderful effect that chocolate syrup has on a sundae. This jam was overflowing the brioche, which then was soaking up all of its juices. This mixture of butter and sugar; savory and sweet left me wanting to eat in silence and not have to explain how much I enjoyed my food.

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To wash down this beautiful meal I had a blood orange pressed juice, which they also make in house. It not only was thirst quenching, but had a citrus tang to it that cleared my palette and left me feeling energized and ready for my day!

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If you happen to be in LA, Sqirl is a must eat at. Guarantee, it will become your new spot to take your dog, read a book, get some work done, meet a friend for coffee, or even enjoy a filling meal with a loved one.

Sqirl’s address is 720 N. Virgil Ave #4, Los Angeles, California 90029. If you are interested in following the company or even checking out their menu online at their website. Every Angelino and visitor should enjoy this delicious neighborhood spot!

Written By Sarah Liss:  A current undergraduate at the University of California Riverside, majoring in Ethnic Studies, this food lover knows her way around a menu. Her background as a biracial woman has not only made her interested in her own cultures, but also the cultural experiences of others around her. She is very perceptive, analytical and compassionate. These core characteristics helped her to see how food isn’t just nourishment, but a threshold into others’ lives.

Top 3 Cupcake Shops in Houston

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Crave

When you have a craving for sweets, this classic boutique bakery will surely hit the spot. With your sweet tooth’s desires laid neatly before your eyes, choose from one of their many delicious offerings. Our favorite – dark chocolate on dark chocolate because of the rich taste of cocoa and the moist cake. Feeling a little out of the box, try unique flavors such as peanut butter or banana. Flavors change by the day so come in and try something new each day of the week. For vegans with a sweet tooth they also offer classic flavors including vanilla and red velvet. If you’re watching your figure or diet, but still want a savory treat try the sugar free or mini cupcake options!

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Everything Bundt Cake

This shop is a bundt cake lover’s haven. True to it’s name is serves a variety of bundt cake options – making it a unique presence in the land of gourmet cupcake shops. Reminiscent of grandma’s house this shop breeds happy thoughts – mostly because of the delightful bundt cakes they offer. With personal size bundt cakes, you can grab-and-go a piece of homely cake heaven. Our favorite – red velvet cake with icing on the top – once you bite into them you can enjoy chocolate chip treats!

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Sugar Rush 

Everything sparkles at Sugar Rush – including the cake! These delicious pastries prove that everything that glitters in this bakery is gold. With dozens of unique flavors and equally unique designs, presentation in Queen in this land but so is taste. With flavors such as Oreo cookie you can have a two-for-one of your favorite desserts – a larger than normal cupcake with butter cream frosting, a few chocolate chips nestled inside the chocolate cake, and an Oreo cookie to top it off . Not only do these cupcakes look desirable but once you bite into them you feel like you’ve hit the gold rush.

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