Q&A with John Ridley & 5 Things About American Crime

It's cliche to say to begin a sentence with "it isn't every day..." but it really isn’t every day that you have the chance to meet an Academy Award winning writer. So, when I recently heard that John Ridley would be gracing Norwood Club with his presence, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. Beyond taking home the 2013 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for 12 Years A Slave, Ridley is also the mastermind behind ABC’s current drama, American Crime and is slated to further impress the masses next year with a new Marvel series.

All. Hail.

The talk was moderated by highly esteemed Journalist and author of “Columbine” Dave Cullen, who, surprise, did a phenomenal job co-piloting Ridley as he navigated the American Crime landscape and its spectrum of hot points. Over what seemed to be the shortest hour of all time, I picked up a number of interesting American CrimemorselsHere were my five favorites:

American Crime is not about the trial, it’s about the people.

While the series is centered around a racially charged murder and the ensuing trial, don’t mistake it for an indie Law & Order (though, another thing I learned from the talk was just how difficult writing for Law & Order and all of those plot-always-changing series must be. But, I digress.) American Crime focuses on the multifaceted human aspect of each character and storyline. The show is not meant to exist in definitives, but rather, to flourish in the very gray nature of mankind.

Editing is (almost) everything.

Editors are artists. This was a significant take-away from the discussion. As an audience, we cannot possibly identify key edits in a film or show. After all, that’s the whole point of editing. However, Ridley gave great praise to the American Crime editing team, reminding us once more that what happens behind the cameras is just as critical as what happens in front of them.

American Crime is sort of like… American Horror Story?

And, no, not because of excessive gore, thankfully. American Crime is similar to American Horror story in that, if it returns for a second season, it will present an all new plot with an all new cast in an all new city.

The season was written without regard for commercial breaks.

Again, this is the type of tidbit that most people might shrug their shoulders at. However, anyone in writing-for-TV or TV productions will tell you that to write without regard for commercial breaks is almost unheard of. Think about it: what keeps you from switching the channel when the commercials come on? Sure, you may watch a show regularly and so you may be inclined to stay tuned, but could a quick 2-minute flip to “Big Bang” reallyhurt? Well, if you’re left with a mini cliffhanger, you probably won’t want to risk missing the opening scene upon return. Thus, writing for commercial breaks. However, Ridley’s strategy when taking on American Crime was to write with so much emotional velocity that each and every scene was as powerful and engaging as the next. #Ambition, #achieved.

It was also written mostly by people of color and directed principally by women

Of course, this doesn’t need much explaining. However, in a world and certainly an industry where both groups are largely underrepresented, it is absolutely worth noting.

A HUGE thank you to the Norwood family, Dave Cullen, and of course, Mr. Ridley himself! 

Eating Our Way through Annapolis

If this title doesn't speak for itself, allow me to translate: we went HAM in the eating department during our trip to Annapolis last weekend. That's "HAM" as in Hard as a Motherf*cker for anyone who hasn't listened to rap in the past two years. What can I say? I'm a big fan of getting to know a place through its food and I'm also a big fan of taking pictures of my food. So, deal with it. Below, I've crafted up the perfect "1-Day in Annapolis" foodies adventure. 

But before I get to that... I have to say that first and foremost, we were SO fortunate to be in town for the weekend to join friend's Taylor & Dominick West in their wedding festivities! We had an amazing time dancing up a storm and throwing them back on friday night. Here's a sneak peak:

As for the 1-Day menu...

We woke up Saturday totally flustered and eager to get outside into the nice weather. Wrongly assuming that everyone else had gone to visit the Cherry Blossoms in D.C., Matt and I scooted downtown by ourselves and went to the famous Miss Shirley's Cafe. While there was a wait (as there apparently always is) it was a swift 35 minutes. During this time, we were able to sit outside in the sunshine and enjoy one of their delicious craft Bloody Mary's while we waited. 

Then we ordered two dishes that only made sense given we were back down in Maryland: a crab & bacon omelet and chicken and savory waffles. Naturally, neither dish disappointed.

Next, we drove down to the inner harbor and took our first selfie as a couple. Major milestones all around!

We strolled around the gorgeous downtown area and for a moment, I blacked out and thought I was still in school at UMD, so I bought a few pairs of Sperrys. Then, we continued up on the cobblestone streets toward the state house and caught a guy playing the Game of Thrones theme song on the violin. Then, I blacked out again and forgot we just ate breakfast. Cue, ice cream from Kilwins.

Around this time, we received a text from Matt's brother Dylan to meet them at McGarvey's back down by the water. This is when we realized that we were, for the first time in history, the first of the group to have left the hotel that day. Apparently, everyone else was just beginning brunch. To make sure we were contributing still, we helped them out with some shrimp and oysters.

After a much-needed nap back at the hotel, we all hopped aboard a party bus and ended the evening at Cantlers for about 8 dozen amazing crabs. Does it get more Maryland than this!?

My Favorite Mexican Spots

I am currently eating rice & beans as I’m typing this - with avocado, naturally. I'm also salivating for a margarita.

Needless to say, I love Mexican/Latin American food. It’s delicious, refreshing and healthy. AND it’s affordable – or, at least, it should be (which is partially why neither Dos Caminos nor Rosa Mexicana are on the following list). So, if you dig good margaritas and freshly-made guac, look no further. I’ve got you covered on my favorite Mexican spots in NYC: 

For a Quick Bite… El Mitote, Upper West Side

Fate may have brought me to the Upper West, but El Mitote is keeping me here. Located on 69th & the ever-gorgeous Columbus Ave., this place has the inviting ambiance of a West Village restaurant with the prices and speed of a fast-food joint. El Mitote boasts Mexican sandwiches, akin to Bahn Mi, which I’ve never seen on another menu. While the sandwiches are bomb, my personal favorite is the 3-per-order soft-shell tacos. These come in around $7 and are overflowing with the plumpest shrimp and the freshest, crunchiest cabbage you’ve ever eaten. Each table also gets a slew of homemade condiments and pickled toppings (who doesn’t love condiments?). Mexican beers sit around $5-$6 and the margaritas, while a little higher on the price-scale at $10 ($7 during HH), do come in fun flavors and mason jars.  All of this together gets El Mitote 5 stars for the best bang-for-your-buck!

For a date… Mole, West Village

Located romantically at the corner of Jane and Hudson, Mole is one of those restaurants that remind you of why you love New York so damn much. Al fresco dining is met by a cozy interior, making it welcoming any time of year. The food is fresh, well-presented and often served table-side. Plus, the $5 happy hour gets you everything from Guac to Margs, making it the perfect price point for a first or tenth date. I mostly enjoy Mole because, even though it’s super affordable, it has a semi-upscale, tempered vibe and is the sort of place where you can truly slow down, kick back, and enjoy the one you’re with. 

For the girls… Ofrenda, West Village

New York is a tough place to have a “go-to spot.” There’s just so many bars and restaurants and, being a foodie, it’s hard to go back to a place more than once. That said, Ofrenda is my go-to spot for ladies night. I’ve gone a handful of times, always recommend it, and it never disappoints. It’s situated directly on bustling 7th ave. and is straddled by rainbow-laden gay bars, which makes it all the more easier to keep the energy high and the vibes good. I suggest making a reservation and keeping your party at 6 or less – it’s a small place, but has a great open-air feel to it. The prickly pear and jalepeno margaritas are truly unparalleled and the Queso Fundido and Pork Belly tacos are sure to give you a good drinking base for wherever you head out to next.

Upper West Brunch: Cotta vs. Jacob's Pickles

At some point during senior year of college, my friend Megan and I decided that we were changing career paths. Instead of going into Law and Business, we planned on starting what we dubbed “Brunch Bloggers,” which, as you may have already guessed, included a “job” where we went to brunch and blogged about it. And somehow got paid. While we knew it would be hard work, we figured that if anyone was cut out for it, it was us. We then told our parents about it, to which they responded: No. And even though we’re #IndependentWomen, we were like, okay fine, maybe I see your point. Needless to say, Brunch Bloggers was put on hold.

Temporarily.

Fast forward four years to the present. While we still haven’t figured out a way to get people to pay us to eat, it hasn’t stopped us from doing some serious brunching – serious enough, in fact, that I am now launching a brand new brunch series on Tangent Pursuit! It had to be a series because, let’s get real, it’d be silly to try to fit all of NYC’s amazing brunch options into one post.  To start, I’ll be spotlighting my two favorite jams on the Upper Best – I’m sorry, Upper West Side:

Jacob’s Pickles vs. Osteria Cotta

Jacob's Overview

JP doles out southern food with a Jewish twist in a craftsmen-style restaurant with high-ceilings and an even higher energy. Admittedly, his best dishes aren’t always the healthiest, but the food somehow still remains startlingly refreshing despite this. And there’s a range of options. The fried chicken is, naturally, bomb diggity. My personal favorite go-to item for brunch, though, is The Coop Platter which includes 3 fresh eggs, sterling bacon, sausage patties, heavenly grits, hash browns and a biscuit… for $15. Yes, I dream about it. Pair breakfast with an Apple Pie moonshine, Rosemary Vodka Lemonade or a Bloody with thick-cut bacon and you’re golden.

What else? 

This place is sort of trending right now, so the biggest drawback there is the wait. You can make a reservation only for 6 or more people. Otherwise, be prepared to wait 1-2 hours. As long as you plan for this, it’s not a big deal. They send a text when your table is ready and there’s a number of bars in the area to grab a drink at and kick back (my top suggestions: Café Lalo, E’s Bar and Fred’s)

Osteria Cotta Overview

Cotta specializes in fresh, flavorful Italian in an equally as fresh and airy-yet-homey/wooden atmosphere. They also have a really neat upstairs area with a semi-hidden backroom, which makes it especially romantic in the winter. But, of course, they have an abundance of outdoor seating which makes the place especially coveted in the warmer months, too. Also, IMHO, their pizza is some of the absolute best in the entire city. The brunch menu includes your standard omelets and eggs benedict, but with an Italian flair (think: prosciutto instead of ham, etc.). Their baked eggs in creamy polenta and mushroom or spicy tomato sauce provide a deliciously unique angle to the menu. The Buon Giorno Pizza (which includes eggs, sausage and bacon) also didn’t look too shabby. I’ll be trying that next time.

What else? 

The real kicker? For $24, you can get any brunch entrée and 2 hours of endless cocktails. While it’s not the same craft-cocktail experience you receive over at JP’s, this definitely isn’t your typical midtown boozy brunch. The ingredients are still well thought-out and the presentation matches the taste. Plus, you can change from Bloody > Mimosa > Cotta’s Sangria.

Overall, both have phenomenal food, great prices and awesome wait staff with a young, appealing atmosphere. Jacob’s Pickles is, again, a bit more on trend, but that scene also comes with an added hectic nature as well. If you’re going with a group and can make a reservation, hit up Jacob’s Pickles. If you’re looking for a spur-of-the-moment brunch date with your significant other or a small group of ladies, then Cotta it is!

Vacation: How to Enjoy it!

Hello, there, Tangent Pursuer’s! Recently, in alignment with some vacation I had scheduled, I decided to take a two-week hiatus from posting. Did you notice my absence? Probably not, but I won’t hold it against you. this time. Anyway, it feels good to be getting back into the swing of city things and I’m grateful we are finally making an exit from the winter season. Prior to my vacation, I was ready to lose my mind. I had had enough of the cold weather and was constantly teetering on the edge of being sick. Needless to say, I’m feeling much more rejuvenated now. Here's a little slideshow of the experience:

After three years spending spring break with my family in Mexico, I’ve definitely learned a few lessons along the way on how to get the most out of your vacation – check out my favorite tips, below!

Before Your Trip

Plan Ahead

No, I am NOT suggesting that you plan your vacation activities down to the minute. In fact, definitely don’t do that. I just mean that you should book your travel and accommodations a few months ahead. Beyond saving money by planning early, you also rake in a lot more happiness via anticipation. Many studies have proven that we reap the most benefits from a vacation during the weeks leading up to it. Honestly, who hasn’t gotten giddy with excitement at least once while day-dreaming of sun and blue waters at their cubicle? That’s what I thought.

Prep a little

Take note of this post the week leading up to your trip.

On Your Trip

Unplug!

This is really tough, but you have to try to cut down on the drug that is technology. To wane myself off (how pathetic does that sound), I crafted up a few golden rules:

1.       Limit frequency: I allowed myself to check my e-mail twice a day for no longer than 20 minutes. Once in the morning after I had my coffee, watched the sunrise and stretched. Then, again, in the evening if I really needed to.  

2.       Limit location: keep your electronics in one corner of the hotel/apartment you’re staying in. There is no need for them by the pool or on the beach.

3.       Limit content: I generally tune out of social media and definitely avoid negative news outlets. That said, I couldn’t resist a few Instagram shots J. I mean, did you see how cute my little cousin is? Please. I had to.

Stay Active

... outside of the gym. If you must get in a few gym workouts while you’re away, go for it for peace of mind. But otherwise, try to use your natural surroundings and enjoy yourself. I took 2 full weeks off of the gym and running and instead cruised around every morning on the stand-up paddleboard. It was a killer workout and the best way to start my day possible. Throughout my trip, I was lucky enough to see a sea turtle, a sea lion, a flying fish and even (my fav) a WHALE up close! That beats the hell out of a beach run any day.

Stay Healthy

It’s usually easy to indulge while being nutritious at most tropical destinations. I had delicious mango, fresh coconut water, off-the-boat sushi, homemade margaritas and avocado-everything while in Cabo. You just can’t get those same ingredients as fresh in the North East. 

Relax

Duh, right? But it can be difficult to unwind when most of us live such regimented lives. Trade the iPad for a real book. Trade Spotify for the sound of the ocean. And trade your schedule for whatever-you-feel-like-doing. Honestly, don’t feel the need to fill your vacation time with zip-lines and banana boat rides if all you really want to do is kick back and relax. It’s your trip; do it your way.

POST TRIP

Plan A Post-trip Perk

Coming home from vacation can be tough, which is why you should schedule something to look forward to the day/week you return. When I was younger, the night we flew home from a trip would signify pizza & movie night, regardless of which day of the week it was. As a kid, that made coming home from a trip part of the fun! While pizza night is still a solid choice, here are some of my other favorite ideas:

o   A date with friends at your favorite restaurant

o   A dose of live-music and drinks

o   A massage/spa appointment*

*My personal favorite. Clearly, I’m no stranger to pampering myself. 

Have your own tips and ideas? Share them in the comments!

Your Vacation Essentials

I leave for Cabo in exactly 68 hours -- but I mean, who’s counting?

Obviously, I’ve been looking forward to this vacation for a while. Over the past few years, it’s become an annual family retreat where we get to kick it under the sun together, catch some waves and drink endless carafes of sangria.  To top it off, my cousins from California are joining us with their babies this time. So, it should be a real treat!

In preparation, I’ve drafted up a Vacation Essentials guide, detailing the top 5 things you should be bringing with you on your next warm-weather retreat… 

Go-To Clothes

Every woman I know has been guilty of over packing. It’s as if we’re programmed to jam half of our closet into one suitcase – you know, “just in case” we need both the magenta and the forest-green leg warmers for our trip to Miami. It’s stupid. And it’s especially stupid when you’re going on a blissful, relaxing getaway where the whole point of the trip is to simplify. So, where do you start? First, make a list and be realistic. You truly need only a few items: necessary toiletries & undergarments, sunglasses, about 2-3 bathing suits, a pair of sandals, sneaks and maybe heels, a few light sundresses, one cover-up in case it’s cold and maybe 1-2 outfits for dining out. Remember: minimalist-chic is in these days, anyway.

Tip: As for choosing which outfits will make the cut, the trick is to honestly ask yourself “would I wear item X right this moment if I was at my destination?” If the answer is no, then you probably won’t wear it period.  Only pack your absolute favorites!

A Good Book

… or five. Thanks to some wonderful gift-giving friends, I’ll be bringing The Paris Review Interviews Volumes I & II for skim-reading, Amy Poehler’s Yes Please! for laughs, and a T.S. Eliot classic to delve into for good measure. I like having different books for different moods, but magazines are always a great poolside hit, too. If you’re more of an auditory learner, download your podcasts or books on tape before you get on the plane so you don’t have to worry about getting a good wifi connection. 

Podcast Suggestions: Alan Watts, Freakonomics, Planet Money

Your Version of A Journal

Call me a dork, but I grew up journaling while traveling and it’s something I’ve always held onto. The act of handwriting something down triggers a different area of your brain and facilitates better recall – and if I want to remember anything, it’s definitely how I felt while on vacation. It’s also therapeutic to take a few moments to reflect and soak up the relaxing vibes. Of course, reading back through vacation/travel journals is a little gift in and of itself and only gets better with time.

Side note: for people who really have a tough time “turning off” from the daily grind while on vacay, journaling is even more helpful. Create a small section of “to do’s.” Next time you’re trying to sip on a Pina Colada and that nagging voice pops up reminding you of an e-mail you forgot to answer before you left, just jot the item down along with a reminder to yourself of why it’s not urgent. Trust me, it helps – this goes for any type of anxiety, too, not just the work-related kind. It’s like transferring your problems to a sheet of paper that you can pick back up on when you return home.

Good Health 

The last way anyone wants to feel when they de-board the plane for vacation is stressed. Unfortunately, that’s usually exactly how people feel, especially when you hail from the Northeast. We work harder and longer than most folks and endure some of the worst winter weather, period. And it’s hard to turn off from all of that sometimes. Personally, I’ve been terribly guilty of this in the past, so there’s a few things I’ve learned.   First, cut out heavy drinking for a full week before you leave, if not more. You don’t want to risk being sleep-deprived, bloated, and worst of all, sick. Second, eat healthfully. It doesn’t mean you need to starve yourself, but you want to look and feel good for your trip. I stick to lots of fruits, vegetables, fish and olive oil before I head out for vacation (and try to in general, as well). Naturally I still allow a little bit of cheese and a glass of wine if I want it (after all, I am preparing for vacation.) For some added health benefits, I also plan to incorporate a fresh juice or smoothie these next 3 days prior to leaving!

A Positive Attitude

Attitude is everything in this world. Whether your flight gets delayed or you forget something important, there’s always something that is bound to go askew. And even if things pan out well logistically, we sometimes build up high expectations around the most irrational aspects of our trip, allowing minor things to bother us much more than they normally would (e.g. a silly quarrel with your significant other or having a sub-par meal out). But just remember the age-old saying that goes “don’t sweat the small stuff… and it’s all small stuff” and you should be just fine.

How do you prepare for vacation? Leave your ideas in the comments below!

4 Easy Ways to Spruce up Your Apartment

This is the time of year where I start getting the itch to emerge from hibernation and spend more time outside. Then I inevitably realize it's still a cool 30 degrees outside. Le sigh. But besides an enormous spring clean (which we'll get to eventually on here) there are some SUPER simple and affordable ways to bring a little more light and life into your apartment. Here are my four favorites:

Buy  Some Flowers

I can distinctly remember being a little girl and telling myself “when I get older, I’m going to buy myself fresh flowers every week.” For whatever reason, that signified some sort of mature indulgence to me at the time.  To be truthful, though, I only recently started fulfilling that promise. And you know what? It makes a really big difference. As humans, we’re biophiliacs by nature – we gravitate toward other living things. So, with a winter this cold, in a city this devoid of much plant life, fresh flowers can make all the difference.  Trader Joes/any bodega sells bouquets for as low as $2.99 (5 sunflowers pictured were $3.99). Trim the stems and add a squeeze of lemon and a packet of sugar and you’ll have lively flowers for a week +.

Light a Candle

Our sense of smell is the strongest one when it comes to recalling memories. So, it only makes sense that a specific scent can translate to a specific kind of happiness. Some people love the smell of vanilla or brown sugar, while others prefer citrusy scents or various flowers and spices. Personally, the food-themed candles are a little too much for me, but I’m a sucker for beachy/woodsy scents. This Woodwick candle “at the beach” has been so comforting and refreshing lately. Plus, it actually crackles as it burns, making me almost feel like I’m at a firepit on the beach.

Stock the Fridge

Few things are as rejuvenating as a recently cleaned, fully restocked fridge. As a foodie, this is, like, duh. Think about it: food is our nourishment. It should appeal to us aesthetically as well as nutritionally. I love opening my refrigerator and seeing a bunch of multicolored fruits alongside a variation of fresh veggies, delicious cheeses and a bundle of prosciutto or fresh shrimp. To give it a shot, simply try 1) cleaning out your fridge and then 2) making a homemade pitcher of sangria and a fresh batch of guac. Just imagine… colorful flowers, the scent of the beach, and you, kicked back with a glass of sangria and some Mexican food. You startin’ to feel me, here?

Re-organize Your Closet

In my old apartment I had a tiny hallway closet, so most of my clothes were hung on a free-standing garment rack in my room. This meant that I had to look at my clothes all the time, which isn’t necessarily exciting when you have a bunch of business suits staring back at you. To compensate, I put all of my work clothes and the majority of my darker clothes in the tiny hallway closet. Then, I used the garment rack to display my most colorful clothes in an appealing manner. When neatly organized, it was fun seeing my favorite red dress hanging next to my Peruzzi white leather jacket and my cobalt blue jeans. Moral of the story? Don’t underestimate the power of color.

Q&A with NYC's Chopped Champion Emily Chapman!

While perusing Facebook, you always come across old high school classmates – and some are more interesting than others. Emily Chapman is one of the interesting ones, and truth is, she always has been. Emily always had a genuine edge to her. No one could argue that. So, when photos of her crafting up delicious-looking, handmade delicacies at NYC hotspot Louro started popping up on my newsfeed, I was impressed (and immediately hungry), but I wasn’t necessarily shocked. When she made a status about appearing on Chopped, though? That got me pumped. Being on Chopped is the coolest. thing. ever. I think it’s the most intelligent and creative cooking show on T.V., and the fact that (spoiler alert) Emily won it all gets me psyched! Check out my Q&A with the Louro NYC Chef below.

1.       So, first off, congrats on the win! I would imagine Chopped is one of the most noticeable chef ‘medals’ out there, so to speak. What made you decide to apply and how did you end up getting a spot to compete?
Thanks for the congrats. Funny enough I didn't even sign myself up to be on this show. A friend and fellow chef of mine, Russell Jackson, had worked with me on a few occasions and was really impressed with my passion and drive. When I saw him again a short while after, he had informed me that he had told the Food Network that he knew a chef he felt would rock out on the show (his words, not mine). I thought he was talking about my boss, and I was like wow that's great for Dave! I was then informed that it was not Dave he was implying, but myself.

2.       What were you most nervous/excited about prior to competing, if anything?
 Going on national television is a nervous feeling, regardless of what it's for. A competition is a competition, but you know that millions of people will be watching you. So there really isn't any room for error. Another very stressful aspect is that youre not just representing yourself, but the restaurant you work for and every single chef that has ever trained you. That's a lot of pressure (I mean, if you care about your former chefs). I was excited too. I mean, its a great opportunity that lots of chefs/cooks would love to have, so I was very grateful.

3.       Which ingredient was most challenging and what did you do with it?
The ham steak. I don't know what it is about that thing, but I just dont like it. I remember eating it as a kid, and just not liking it. When I saw it, I was fairly grateful because it was the deciding factor on my final dish. I saw ham, and then lemon lime soda, so I instantly knew I would do a version of pho. I should have taken more time to try and enhance it a bit more, but I knew that the most important aspect of that dish would be executing the broth. I mean, thirty minutes people!

4.       I hear it’s true: you really do see the ingredients right before the clock starts. What is your #1 tip for cooking under such pressure?
Yup, it's true. You see the ingredients in real time. I was actually happy about that. I was glad the show was real. But tips for cooking under pressure? Anyone who saw my episode knows that I was a shakey disaster in the first round. It's just really overwhelming. Theres a clock going, and a LOT of cameras and people following you around and are all up in your face. The thing that switched for me mentally was when I finally figured out my dish. Then it's just having confidence, I cook every day for more than 12 hours. If I don't have a natural instinct to just keep cooking, I shouldn't be in this business! lol

5.       New York City is saturated with good grub. Can you depict your ideal food day and where you would have breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Breakfast... hmm. Not much of a breakfast person. If I do, I just like bagels. Bagels on the Square are my favorite, and Jack's Coffee is my ultimate saving grace (Mad Max is the way to go). Lunch is easy, I'll give you my top three. The beet sandwich at Little Park; a paratha roll from Mirch Masala; or surplus of food, especially soup dumplings, from Hot Kitchen. Dinner for me I have three "go tos" Uncle Boons, Dirt Candy, and call me bias, but Louro.

6.       And finally, there was a part during the introductions where you mentioned currently “having no fear” and that’s something that caught my attention. Because from my personal perspective, I never remember you having any fear. How has cooking brought about, or fine-tuned, your sense of fearlessness?
Having no fear starts with believing in yourself. Once you can do that, there really isn't anything left to be afraid of. Cooking has allowed me to get my self confidence back. Knowing that I am talented, that my strive and prickly personality actually can coincide with one another; that's what this industry has allowed me. I can be myself, feel comfortable doing so, and help round out some edges. (Lord knows, I had(ve) a lot of edges!)

March in NYC

As both the great outdoors and the good people of Facebook have continued to remind us, it’s effing cold and windy outside and this winter feels like it is NEVER going to end.  But it will, and it all starts with March. Or, so we hope, anyway. While you can drink yourself stupid any day of the year, March provides a plethora of opportunities to do so - what with Americans’ deconstructed understanding of St. Patty’s Day and all. Nevertheless, drinking opportunities are aplenty, so I won’t even get into them here. Below are this month’s “Top” events, designed to expand your mind (or your taste buds) rather than kill your brain cells. Enjoy!

1.       BJORK

Call me biased, but this woman is a genius in every sense of the word. Prolific as ever, Bjork is touring New York this spring with a series of intimate shows at City Center and Carnegie Hall. I scooped up tickets early at $50 but, unfortunately for many, they’ve now skyrocketed on Stub Hub. If you can’t afford to catch a show, grab a ticket to NYC’s Governor’s Ball (which you should be doing anyway - $135). She performs on day 2, Saturday. Oh, AND she has her own retrospective on exhibit at MOMA, featuring much of her life’s work thus far, beginning March 8th ($25 to enter MoMA – or free if you’ve got a corporate relationship!)

2.       The Amory Show

Continuing the theme, March is a truly phenomenal month for art in NYC. Sprawled out over two piers (92 & 94), The Armory Show is a breathtaking, immersive display of over 2,000 pieces of art. The breadth and depth of exhibitors is absolutely unparalleled anywhere else in New York. With how large the showcases are, it’s an easy way to spend an evening out.    

3.  Entrepreneurs Festival

Check out a showcase of 80+ startups, plus speakers, panels, parties and roundtables, all taking place at NYU’s Tisch Hall.  

4.      Brisket King

Head over to the Irondale Center in BK to taste endless brisket by competing chefs, along with spirits and craft beer, of course.

5.      New Directors Film Festival

If New York is known for anything, it’s known as the hotspot for up-and-coming talent, regardless the industry. Check out this 10-day event at Lincoln Center and MOMA to see the work of emerging, international filmmakers. +5 for bragging rights and fodder for dinner table discussion.

6.       Flower Festival

Lord knows, we need some color in lives with all this cold. Get out and shoo the winter away at this year’s annual Macy’s Flower Show (who knew this even existed?)

7.      Restaurant Tasting

Head over to the Metropolitan Pavilion and indulge yourself in food samples from 50 restraurants and 35 nations – all chosen by the ever-trusty Village Voice food critics. With your ticket comes complimentary, paired drinks. Naturally.