Good magic: Sprinkles Cupcake ATM, New York

Sprinkles Cupcake ATM
780 Lexington Ave, New York
https://www.sprinkles.com/cupcake-atm

When I first heard about this (and goodness only knows how I came across it, I can’t for the life of me remember!), I thought it was a joke. Maybe a temporary 1 month pop up deal. I didn’t think it’d last long enough for me to actually try it. But it wasn’t temporary or a cruel joke. It was magic. Good magic. From the good cupcake fairies of the world. How else can you explain an ATM that dispatches cupcakes?!

So, dinner had been eaten. It was freezing cold that night, as most nights were in New York over the past winter. We were on our way to Alice’s Tea Cup for some hot tea and scones, when we realised we were walking straight past the Sprinkles Cupcake store. The store with the ATM out the front of it. Cue hysterical laughing and then the realisation that this thing was legit.

How does it work? Pretty simple.
1. Put your credit card in the credit card hole.
2. Make your sweet selection from the touch screen.
3. Confirm your wish to spend money on magical cupcake happiness.
4. The screen door closes.
5. Stare in amazement as the screen door then opens to reveal a perfect little cupcake box sitting there, waiting to be taken home.

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Seriously, that’s it. It’s a real thing, and it’s the best! How much happier can you get than a cupcake at 3am if you desperately need one?! I wasn’t sacrificing my hot tea though, so I put it in my handbag and went on to Alice’s. But then I felt like a cupcake when we got back to the hotel – walking through the cold New York streets is hungry work, after all.  I went with red velvet, and it more than lived up to all the hype. Moist and crumbly, loved the frosting, it was delicious and totally cancelled out my fear that cupcakes from ATMs wouldn’t be as good. It really was. So stop reading this and go get yourself an ATM cupcake! And for those of us not in New York with access to a cupcake ATM, make your way to your nearest cupcake dispensary for a happier Monday!

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Sprinkles Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

Read this: Yoga Girl by Rachel Brathen

Yoga Girl
by Rachel Brathen

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Unless you’ve been living under a social media rock for the last year or so, chances are you’ve heard of Yoga Girl, Rachel Brathen. Her wildly popular Instagram account has been gracing the feeds of young (mostly) women and inspiring the #yogaeverydamnday movement for quite a while now.

The Swedish native/Aruban transplant gained a cult following with the beautiful, colourful photos she posted of her yoga poses and life in Aruba, but primarily because of the raw, honest writing that went with her photos; that’s how the book is written, too.

Her book chronicles her life from young trouble maker and substance abuser to the zen goddess she is today. Her book is a beautiful mix of “this is my life and how I got here” stories, instructional photos and descriptions of yoga poses, a few healthy recipes, gorgeous photos, and “loving insights” as you can see below; think of these as tips on how to go about life in a happy, zen, yoga way.
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I swear it’s not all quite as “hippy dippy” as it may sound – I was a little skeptical about a book written by a beautiful, young blonde who always looks great in a bikini, living in Aruba with her lovely husband, cutie pie dogs and running a successful empire, all while she’s still in her mid 20s. I’d been following her on Instagram for a while and bought the book hoping that it’d be as raw and honest as her Instagram posts. It was so refreshing to open a book that wasn’t all about “10 yoga poses to make you skinny” or detox recipes or “just love the world” bullshit. I was very pleasantly surprised to find myself reading something written with such honesty and such openness. It takes a lot of courage to open up about your lows in life. Yeah, life is amazing for her now. Rachel truly has created an empire, she’s gorgeous, she’s living a beautiful life. But to read about the hard times that got her to the good times was beautiful, and it felt like an honour and a privilege to be let into the heart and soul of someone I find so inspirational. It also gives me a lot of hope, at a time in my life where I’m really struggling with my own inner demons, that not only can things get better, but overcoming your struggles might mean that you can help more people than just yourself.It was also great to get some practical and instructional information on some yoga poses, which is what her empire is obviously built on. Added bonus – there are a lot of “try this easier version if you’re not up to the harder version” options, as well as a few more advanced options.

This book isn’t just for aspiring yogis, it’s a great book for all women. At it’s soul, it’s about a journey we’ve all got to take. It’s about growing through the bad times, making ways to help yourself rather than waiting for someone else to come and “save” you. It’s about finding and feeding your passions and creating a life that you’re excited about living. It’s one of those books that’ll be worth keeping on my side table, because I know I’m going to read it over and over again. I think you might, too. Grab a copy here, and enjoy  : )

Eat here: Kustom Burgers, Melbourne (burgers)

Kustom Burgers
861 High St, Thornbury
https://instagram.com/kustomburgers/

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It would appear that Melbourne’s obsession with burgers isn’t letting up at all; if anything, it’s powering on even stronger than it was 12 months ago, with places like Grand Trailer Park Taverna, 8bit, Mr Scruff’s, JD’s Burgers, Bad Boys, Dandenong Pavillion, Laurie Dees and Chew Burgers all seriously stepping up the burger game as demonstrated by their prominent positions on the Instagram feeds of Melbourne foodies. Enter Kustom Burgers, the new kid on the northern suburbs block, who have established their home base on High St, Thornbury.

Having driven past the neon sign for what felt like months, we were stoked to find out it was finally open a week or so ago, and decided to head over and give it a try last weekend. Great lay out aside from the amazing truck you can see above, which unfortunately takes up quite a lot of space that would be better used for seating. Luckily we went for an early lunch, so we didn’t have any issues getting a seat, but I can see how it could become problematic on a Saturday night.

As per my standard burger procedure on a first visit to a new place, I ordered the name sake burger: the F150 Kustom Burger ($13.00). We had an original old school burger bun housing a 100% grass fed, all-beef patty, bacon, American cheese, pickled, cooked onion, lettuce, tomato sauce and Kustom mustard.

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Pros: simple bun didn’t take away from the burger itself. Loved the special Kustom mustard. The cheese was great and perfectly melted. Onions were amazing – perfectly cooked, soft, a little grill top char, delicious. Very generous on the bacon, too, which is always a bit plus.
Cons: the bacon, while generously supplied, was basically not cooked – I like my burger bacon nice and crispy, so that kinda sucked. The lettuce was all wrong for the burger, and after a few bites was wilted and mushy. The patty was almost there, but lacked seasoning.

 

Husband got pretty excited to see the EH Smashed Burger ($14.00) on the menu – we both love the double smash burger at Rockwell and Sons, and the smash burgers at Laurie Dees, so he was looking forward to trying another one. This one promised double 100% grass fed, all-beef patties smashed flat, double bacon, double cheese, lettuce, onion and house-made special sauce.

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This one, sadly, was a let down. Firstly, let me just clarify the “smashed patty” thing; long story short, smashed patties = delicious by-product of the Maillard Reaction = “a series of chemical reactions that take place when protein-rich foods are heated. Large proteins break into smaller compounds which react with others, recombining into new configurations. They break apart again, recombine, and on and on in a cascade of chemical reactions that creates hundreds of brand new compounds. It’s the smell of a good burger joint. It doesn’t just make meat taste good, it actually makes it taste more meaty.” You can read more on Serious Eats, but that’s the basics. So back to this burger – it wasn’t a proper smashed patty burger. These patties weren’t just not smashed, they were also sadly under seasoned, and just tasted like your run-of-the-mill fish & chip shop burger patties. And once again, under cooked bacon. Sad face.

 

We also got a large serve of the hub cap fries ($6.50) with a side of chipotle sauce (extra 50c). We did ask for the sauce on the side, but I guess that wasn’t noted…

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Lack of attention on the sauce order aside, and despite the burger disappointment, this was the surprise delight of the meal; one of the best sides of chips either of us have had at a burger joint in a long time! They were all nice and crunchy, the seasoning was unreal, and the chipotle sauce was great, too. HUGE win!

 

I’m glad we finally got around to trying Kustom Burgers, and despite the burger short comings, there’s potential there once they find their feet. I hope they do, because it’s always nifty to have a great burger place nearby!
Kustom Burgers on Urbanspoon

Cook this: lamb & apricot tagine

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You know the whole conundrum of a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear? I’m not a girly girl with a crap load of clothes, so that doesn’t happen so much to me. My thing is that I have bookshelves (yes, plural, see below for the bulk of my collection) full of cook books and no idea what to cook. A lot of the time, I buy cook books because a) I like the pretty pictures, and b) I love to read different recipes, because I feel like it’s one of the best ways to learn about other cultures. Staring at the ridiculous amount of cookbooks I have after buying yet another one last weekend, I decided to start picking a book out each week and finding a random recipe to cook. This week, I plucked out Delicious: More Please cook book by Valli Little, food editor of Delicious magazine, which has been sitting on my shelf for literally years, after mum gave it to me for Christmas like five years ago.

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This book is beautifully photographed and laid out, in seasons – as in, here are some autumn recipes, using what’s actually in season. I love that concept. And the recipe for the lamb and apricot tagine jumped out at me again, like it did the first seven times I flicked through this book. It looked so rich and thick, a perfect dish now that the weather is getting colder. So why has it taken me so long to actually make this dish? Because, honestly, the very long list of ingredients and lack of 1., 2., 3. method really put me off. I really hate recipes that have the method written out in long paragraphs – I just want dot point steps!

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Anyway, it got me thinking about not only how many great recipes I haven’t bothered trying because they seem too hard at first glance, and also how many recipes other people gloss over for the same reason. For that reason, I decided to re-write this recipe to something a bit more simple and easy for a real person in a real kitchen to cook, using mostly ingredients already around the house. Because let’s face it – when you have to buy a stupid amount of ingredients like obscure spices that you’re only even going to use for the one dish, you may as well just go and order the dish at a restaurant, where it’s going to be quicker and cheaper. I don’t think my pared down version has lost too much – it was

Here’s my version of Valli Little’s lamb and apricot tagine (enough to serve 4) – hopefully it’s simple enough for you guys to try too, because it’s actually not as hard as it looks and a really delicious autumn meal!

 

Marinade for lamb
– 1 garlic clove, minced
– 1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated
– 1 heaped tsp cumin powder
– 1 heaped tsp sweet paprika
– sprinkle of salt
– 3 tbsp olive oil
– 500g diced lamb

1. Combine everything but the lamb in a larger plastic container into a paste.

2. Add the lamb to the container, mix the paste through until it’s well coated, and let it marinate away in the fridge for an hour or so.

 

Cous cous
– zest of 1 orange
– 2 tbsp golden raisins
– 1 tsp cumin powder
– 1 tsp sweet paprika
– 1 cup cous cous
– 1 tsp butter
– 1 tbsp toasted slivered almonds (optional)

While the tagine is finishing up in that last 10 – 15 minute simmer, prepare the cous cous:

1. Heat a small saucepan over low/medium heat, and add the zest, raisins and spices, and cook gently for a minute or two, until you can really smell it.

3. Add 1 cup of water, bring the the boil, then take the saucepan off the heat.

4. Stir in the cous cous, cover, and sit aside for 5 minutes.

5. Add the butter and work it through/fluff the cous cous up with a fork. Mix in the almonds if you want them, and it’s ready to go with the tagine!

 

The rest of the tagine
– olive oil
– 20g butter
– 1 onion, chopped- 1 x 400g tin chickpeas , drained
– 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
– 2 cups beef, lamb or vegetable stock
– 1 tbsp honey
– ½ cup dried apricots, cut in half
– toasted sesame seeds and coriander to serve (optional)

1. Heat a large pot over high heat and drizzle in a little olive oil. Cook the lamb in batches if the pot isn’t big enough to cook it all at once, just sealing it off/browning it. Then remove it from the pot and set aside.

2. Keep the pot on over medium heat and add the butter. Once melted, add the onion and cook, stirring, until it softens a little (around 5 minutes).

3. Put the lamb back into the pot and stir it into the onion. If you like extra spices/have them around, like cinnamon, chilli, ras el hanout, add in a little of them here, too.

4. Next, stir in the chickpeas, tomatoes, stock and honey – you should have enough liquid in the pot now to just cover the lamb. If you need more, add more!

5. Bring it to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partly covered, for 45 minutes.

6. Uncover and simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

7. Last step of the simmering process – add the apricots, and simmer/stir for another 10 – 15 minutes.

8. Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds and fresh coriander leaves on top, and serve with cous cous. Enjoy!
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Shop here: Idlewild Books, New York

Idlewild Books
12 W 19th St, New York
http://www.idlewildbooks.com

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I fell utterly and completely head over heels for this place… to think I almost didn’t get around to it! I’d had a few bookstores I wanted to check out in New York, and with only a few days left, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get to Idlewild. As it turned out, we were in the right neighbourhood anyway and I had the address saved on my phone – we arrived just on opening time that particular morning.

Idlewild is the bookstore wanderlusters dream about. Up a few stairs and onto a creaky wooden floor, and you’re surrounded by book after book covering every corner of the world. The best thing I found about this place was the way the books were organised; every book pertaining to a particular country in the one place. That meant that under Italy, for example, you could find guide books, languor guides, travel writing and novels set in Italy. It made things soooo much easier to navigate than having all the guide books in one area, then all the travel writing in another, etc. Absolutely loved that concept! It also got me thinking more about the notion of letting travel books and novels themselves act as a guide more so than the traditional guide book; how fantastic to read a novel set in New York City while travelling through the city itself! The prices of the books were very reasonable too – sometimes specialty bookstores like this feel justified in marking their prices up exponentially, but I found them to be more or less the same as I’d find online, which made it easier to justify buying another book to add to the pile I’d already purchased on my travels!

Idlewild is also incredibly popular for the language classes they offer, everything from Arabic to French, which is a really great idea to attach to a travel bookstore. While we weren’t there long enough to partake, it certainly gives you something to think about for when you get back home.

If you’re travelling to New York, or even if you live there and didn’t know about this place, and you have the travel bug like me, I can’t recommend highly enough taking a visit! And if that’s not reason enough, you can get a donut from Dough next door while you’re out that direction ;)