Monday, August 24, 2015

Columbus Eats: Hot Chicken Takeover

Nick and I were in Columbus this past weekend, celebrating his cousin Michelle's wedding to her now-husband Matt. We wanted to check out some Columbus restaurants, and the minute I asked my friend Jeff for a recommendation, he threw out Hot Chicken Takeover.

For the uninitiated, Hot Chicken Takeover is Nashville-style fried chicken. And if you're wondering what that is, basically, the chicken is brined for over 18 hours, fried, tossed in spices, and fried again. It comes in four categories: Cold (mild), Warm (medium), Hot (and it is HOT) , and Holy (which I'm not brave enough to try).

Hot Chicken Takeover started as a kick-starter funded food truck, and then expanded to a restaurant at the North Market. Their hours are typically 11am - 3pm, but they only make a set number of pieces, and judging by the line at 10:50 am on a Sunday, I highly doubt they can ever stay open the whole time with running out. I had heard rumors about the high sell-out risk, and Nick and I found ourselves in the line at 10:40 am-- by some miracle, we were the second people in line!!

By 10:50 am the line was wrapped around the second floor, and when the doors opened at 11:00 am, the line was snaking all the way around the restaurant. The restaurant itself is pretty bare bones, but it fits. Fried chicken is simple food, and the simple decor makes sure the focus stays right where it should be-- on that chicken.


Nick ordered the Warm meal and I chose the Hot meal. The slaw was a delicious vinegar based mix of cabbage, carrots and onions - delicious and refreshing. The mac n cheese was creamy and cheesy, and I definitely needed it to cool off my mouth after the hot chicken. And the chicken? This is probably THE BEST fried chicken I've ever eaten, and I've eaten a lot of really good fried chicken. Hot Chicken Takeover uses organic chicken from local farms, and the quality and time taken to brine definitely make a difference. The hot was HOT- perfect for my palette honed on Indian spices. I had a runny nose and the BIGGEST smile on my face. So did it live up to the hype? F*** YES!!!



By the time we left around 11:20, there were plenty of people similarly enjoying their chicken. The whole restaurant smelled like comfort food -- and everyone looked really happy too!


So in closing, I highly recommend Hot Chicken Takeover the next time you're in Columbus (assuming that you're not vegan or vegetarian of course). You may have to wait in line, but I promise its worth it!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

CLE Shops: Freddy Hill Design

This past weekend, I was invited to tour the Freddy Hill Design studio in Lakewood, just a few minutes from my house. If you're not aware of the brand, Freddy Hill Design creates one-of-a-kind, handcrafted furniture and home accessories, as well as leather goods, and being the bag fanatic that I am, there's no way I was going to pass up this invitation!

So, Saturday morning, I made my way to the studio to meet with Nina Kocan, who works with Freddy and actually designs and creates their leather bags and accessories. Nina's degree is in education and art, and she joined Freddy a couple of years ago seeking a career that would let her explore her creative side and work with her hands. She initially started as Freddy's apprentice, creating furniture-- the bag line was a result of an experiment into an upholstery line, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, the Freddy Hill Design line of bags and leather goods is created completely in Lakewood, by hand, from locally sourced materials. Everything from the leather (that comes from a local tannery), to the vintage brass details, to the logo, are all created and sourced right here in Northeast Ohio. Which is really pretty amazing if you think about it.




The bag line has a heavy focus on totes, which fall into primarily three categories: raw leather (these are unlined and feature an interior leather pocket), the regular totes (lined with cotton lining, featuring 2 pockets and a zippered pocket, as well as a leather and brass keyring), and the hair-on-hide totes, which I absolutely LUUUUURVE!

These hair-on-hide totes are really quite amazing-- they are hand painted, and like the regular totes, feature a cotton lining, two interior pockets, a zippered pocket, a leather and brass key ring, magnetic closure and brass details. The bag has a really amazing texture, and like all natural leather, will last a long time and wear absolutely beautifully. Nina was gracious enough to gift me my very own hair-on-hide tote, which I've been carrying around all week. The bag has attracted a lot of attention and compliments!!




You can check out the Freddy Hill Design line of bags online, or at local boutiques like LINGG.

I know I didn't spend a lot of time talking about Freddy's furniture line, but it is really beautiful-- I encourage you to take a look at the collection online, at his studio, or on Instagram!

Disclosure: As I mentioned before, I was gifted one of the hair-on-hide totes that you see in the picture above. As always, all opinions are 100% my own. I absolutely LUUUUURVE supporting talented designers and artists, and I thank you for allowing me this platform to support their work! XO

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Summer Reads: Exploring the world of the Super Rich


I have been reading a LOT lately. Nick and I have been spending a lot of evenings hanging out on our front porch with a glass of wine, and I've been using the lull in TV season to catch up on some fun reading. My taste in books leans toward fiction, although I do reach for the occasional biography or fashion book here and there. One of my favorite books this summer is actually a sequel to a book I read last year, so I wanted to talk about both.

I first read Crazy Rich Asians last year. It tells the story of economics profession Rachel Chu who travels to Singapore with her boyfriend Nick Young for a wedding, and to meet Nick's family. Rachel  doesn't know that Nick's family is in the top 1% of wealthiest people in the WHOLE WORLD.  What follows is a fun family saga and peek into what it must be like to have unimaginable wealth. This is a super fun read for any lover of fashion and travel: lots and lots of designer name drops, and the book takes you from NYC to Singapore to Hong Kong and London and Paris.


China Rich Girlfriend, released earlier this summer, is the sequel to Crazy Rich Asians. Rachel and Nick are back, and so are a host of new characters. This books stands alone, but it does make references to the earlier book, so I recommend reading both. They are such fun reads that it really won't take a lot of time to get through them. I can't talk about plot too much without giving away plot points from the first book, but lets just say that the sequel is even more wild than the original! Perfect summer reads!!!


So what are you reading this summer? 

Monday, August 17, 2015

CLE Eats: Alley Cat

My obsession with oysters is well documented. Naturally, Nick and I just HAD to go try out Alley Cat with our friends Dave and Jessi (Jessi, like me is similarly obsessed with oysters). Located on the east bank of the Flats, Alley Cat is part of the Flats revival. The restaurant is located right on the boardwalk, and there were plenty of people docking their boats and walking in for dinner. The restaurant has huge garage doors, so when they are open, you feel like you're outside, even when you're actually indoors. There are also two outdoor patios, so in short, lots of room to sit. That said, I still recommend reservations!  The day we went, the restaurant was less than a week old, so the slight service issues were to be expected. The food however, was impeccable (with one exception). Between the four of us, we ordered the following:

Clam Chowder: probably the best clam chowder I've ever tasted
Ceviche: absolutely delicious
Beef Tartare: sadly this was disappointing 
Peel-N-Eat Shrimp: this was a warm dish, served in a buttery sauce-- so, so good
Shrimp Stuffed Peppers: spicy! but I couldn't stop eating it. It burned so good!
A dozen oysters: we ordered the Standish Shore, Wianno and Misty Point. The Misty Point were my favorite
Grilled Octopus: smoky and delicious
Lobster roll: Now, its been a few years since I ate one in New England, but this was v. good
Chili Braised Beef: I didn't try this one, but Dave really liked it
Rice Custard Creme Brûlée: This has the texture of rice pudding, NOT creme brûlée, so adjust expectations accordingly

There were cocktails and wine involved (naturally), and the four of us basically had to be wheeled out since we ate SO. MUCH.

Overall, the food was really good, and I know the service will get better with time and experience. With the amazing lakeside views and fun atmosphere, I know I will be back very very soon!








Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Finding The Right Foundation Garments

Foundation garments: The key to make sure your clothes fit well and look good on you. In layman's terms, underwear. However, the sad truth is that somewhere between 60-85% of women (based on the study) are wearing the wrong size. And, I am ashamed to admit, I am was one of those people.

While I understand the concept and importance of the right bra, the truth is bra shopping SUCKS. It is basically the WORST! And if you go to a big box undergarment retailer (ahem, Victorias Secret), they almost ALWAYS get the size wrong. Now you could go into a specialty store or Nordstrom, but UGH, who wants to go shopping for BRAS?!

A few weeks ago, I reached my limit with a particularly ill-fitting bra that was causing all sorts of issues with my shirt. Enter a well-timed Facebook ad for True & Co, promising a perfect fit and easy and free returns --- what did I have to lose?! I clicked through…

True & Co. starts your experience with a set of 15 quick questions about your current bra, no measuring tape necessary.




Once you've completed the survey (and signed up for a 10% off coupon (YAY!), they assign your boobs into categories based on your boob shape, not just size. And then, you're off to the races with your recommendations. Now anyone who has been bra shopping knows that no two brands are alike. A 34C in one brand is definitely NOT the same as a 34C across another. True & Co has figured out all the differences, so they suggest sizes that are brand specific. I quickly ordered 2, and waited.

A few days later, they arrived. I tried them on with baited breath (in the comfort of my own well-lit bedroom), and they fit. PERFECTLY! The quality is great (they are well known brands like Wacoal, Spanx and the like) and they come in basic and fun colors and textures. I've ordered more bras, and I wish I could tell you about the return policy, but they've all been so great that I haven't had to return a single one!

If you feel like your bra could fit better (maybe you feel like the straps are digging in, or there's a gap, or you have back fat bulges, or you've had a change in weight), I strongly recommend you take the True & Co survey. It will take you no more than 2 minutes (I promise), and will give you an idea of your perfect bra size. Even if you decide not to buy, at the very least, you will be armed with good information for your future bra purchases.

Who knows, maybe you will find the right bra that just makes your clothes look a little better, and make you even more polished and gorgeous than you already are!

Good luck, and treat your boobs right!
XO

Monday, August 3, 2015

Feels Like Vegas: FWD Day + NightClub

This past Friday, Cleveland welcomed its very first day and night club: FWD. Pronounced Forward, the club (as its name suggests) is open both during the day and at night so you can pretend that you're in Vegas and party all day.

Built on the east bank of the Flats, using shipping containers as focal points of its decor, FWD has a very open vibe. Nick and I stopped by on Sunday afternoon to briefly check it out.







My initial observations:

1. The space: Its not that big, but the layout gives the illusion of a lot of space. Lots of white distressed wood, and metal. The shipping containers and the bridges surrounding the property make for some amazing Instagram pics. The location on the water, and the amazing summer Cuyahoga sunsets make this worth visiting for that reason alone. That said, there is practically NO SHADE AT ALL. I wilt in the sun (for real, I break into a rash) so I absolutely could NOT spend all day there. Very bad things would happen to me. I'm told they're working on fixing this.

2. The music: Very dancy, very enjoyable, very Vegas. FWD has a selection of rotating guest DJs, and for the brief time I was there, I really did get into the music.

3. The dress code: I have not figured this out yet. Granted, I was there early in the afternoon, and there weren't too many people there yet, but the dress code was a mix of cute sundresses, some dress shorts, one woman in a bikini + stilettos. The bar staff (mostly women) are in bikini tops and skirts/ bottoms + coverups, but it seems like anything goes. Guys were mostly in shorts/linen pants.

4. The drinks:  You can order cocktails at the bar, but the credit card machine was glitching while we were there, and not having any cash, we didn't try any cocktails. If you want to sit at any of the spots pictures above, you need bottle service, which runs at $250-$300 for a bottle of vodka (as an example). You can reserve a space online, and if you're planning a visit on a Friday or Saturday night, they highly recommend making one in advance. They're experimenting with some minimums on very busy nights, but its all a work in progress for now. Remember that it only opened on Friday.

5. The pool: Yes, there is a pool. It is currently membership only, roped off, with a few cabana type loungers around it. It will be filled this week. I believe membership is $1300/year. Keep in mind that FWD is a seasonal space, so obviously you won't be able to access this in the dead of winter.

Overall, this is a great space and a new concept for Cleveland. I'm curious to see how the membership pool concept flies. I'm also very interested in getting together a group of friends and visiting for a night on the town! Who's with me?!

PS: Since I shamelessly used Tinashe's song as the title for my blog, I feel like I also need to share the song with you. Sing along.





Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Recipe: Spicy Indian Kidney Beans aka Rajmah

One of my favorite things about food is that different regions have variations on cuisine. The same is true for Indian food. One of my favorite Indian meals is Rajmah and rice: aka spicy kidney beans served over basmati rice. Unfortunately, I hadn't had a lot of luck finding a good recipe, until I came across Anupy Singla's book, The Indian Slow Cooker.

The following is my recipe for Rajmah, adapted from hers- this recipe makes 10 cups
Ingredients:
3 cups dried red kidney beans. DO NOT used the canned stuff- it will change up the flavor and texture.
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon ginger paste
2 teaspoons garlic paste
3 finger-hot/serrano chiles (I used 2, and it was really quite spicy. You can omit these if you prefer)
3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon red chile powder
1 tablespoon salt (you can always add more to taste)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
9 cups water
1/2- 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Put everything except the cilantro in a slow cooker and cook on HIGH for 11 hours. Remove the cinnamon stick and cloves (if you can find them). Use an immersion blender for 2-3 quick blasts to break up some of the beans. Serve over basmati rice, garnished with cilantro (be generous with the cilantro- it really adds to the flavor.)



ENJOY!