Category Archives: Food and Drink

Nautical Bridal Shower Inspiration

Earlier this week, I put together a nautical inspiration board for my friend Rosie over at TrueBlu...and I just couldn’t stop. I set into a kind of blue-and-white-striped frenzy, during which I seriously began to consider incorporating lobster art and a giant marquee anchor light into my home decor. Needless to say, I had more than enough inspiration for another board!

nautical inspiration board 2

I started with this amazing image of sea grasses and wildflowers in colored glass bottles and I knew I had to bring in one of my all-time favorite J.Crew bridesmaid dress images, which was shot in Maine. From there, it was easy to run with the New England theme and add a lobster boil and a crisp cucumber cranberry Cape Codder cocktail (say that five times fast!). This adorable “dropping the anchor and tying the knot” tank and invitation make the perfect tagline for the shower and white and blue striped heels could class up a casual look. A chocolate tart with red and blue berries looks like a decadent end to the meal (but it’s paleo and vegan!), while this sea clay beauty set makes the perfect favor.

The inspiration doesn’t stop there. Check out my Nautical Pinterest board or hop over to TrueBlu to see my first nautical inspiration board, complete with Mastbrother’s anchor-printed chocolates (my kind of party favor!) and a recipe for firecracker ice pops.

A New York City Bachelorette Dining Guide

Trying to plan a bachelorette weekend in NYC and absolutely overwhelmed by your restaurant choices? Trust me, as a New Yorker I feel your pain. Just deciding where to go to dinner often requires a flow chart. I need to consider location, price, ambiance, and even the size of the restaurant, read reviews on Yelp, check New York magazine for the latest openings…it’s too much! I keep lists of places I’ve enjoyed just to have a few options on the tip of tongue in a pinch. I can’t imagine how you, a NYC visitor, must feel. So here you go: my recommendations for affordable NYC dining, all chosen with your bachelorette party in mind.

I have to preface this by saying that this list is by no means complete. NYC is just too big and there are too many amazing restaurants, with new ones opening every day. So this list is very personal to me. It’s based on my experiences and the places I like. Please leave me suggestions in the comments for the inevitable part 2!

P.S. Part 2 has arrived! Click here for more dinner recommendations, a few unique drinking spots and more yummy treats. 

First, let’s talk about cost. I consider an affordable entree in NYC to be $15 and the average beer will set you back $6-$8. I know, I know. As a girl who has ordered a Long Island Iced Tea at a bowling alley in North Carolina for $4, I feel your pain. Here, that same drink will set you back $12 at some bars. So set your budget or your expectations accordingly. But don’t despair. There are deals to be found if you know where to look and you can absolutely have amazing food and an amazing time without shelling out $100 a person on dinner. All the restaurants I’ve chosen here are affordable and delicious.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that many mind-blowing NYC restaurants are incredibly tiny. I’m talking 10 seats or just counter service! So if you have a big group to accomodate, you need to keep the size of the restaurant in mind.

Lastly: reservations, reservations, reservations. Live and die by Open Table, a great website for booking reservations online or on your phone in a snap.


Otto: Mario Batali’s West Village spot is called a pizzeria, but take a look at the menu and you’ll see it goes far beyond pizza. The price tag also doesn’t match how divine the food really is (personal pizzas run $7-$14). Start with the braised pork shoulder with pappardelle and finish with the olive oil gelato—trust me! This gelato is one of my favorite things to share with visitors. They always seem nervous before their first bite, but then can’t stop eating this fruity, tangy concoction. The cavernous Tuscan-style dining room makes this a great choice for big groups.

Nai Tapas: This East Village joint is small, but could accommodate a big party with advanced notice and a reservation. The tapas plates are delicious, authentically Spanish and perfect for sharing along with pitchers of sangria. If you’re daring, try the pulpo a la gallega (octopus) or for something a bit tamer but still delightful go with the pan tumaca (toasts with serrano ham, manchego cheese and tomato). Either way, make sure to order their champagne sangria—it’s a celebration in your mouth. Thursday and Saturday nights have live flamenco shows. Tapas portions run about $7 each and full plates are $9–$14. A pitcher of sangria will set you back $27, but you’ll get at least 6 drinks out of it.

The Park: Want to feel like you’re dining in Central Park? Request seats in the garden room of this casually chic Chelsea spot. With cobbled floors and patio tables, the atmosphere is casual, but candlelight and the rustic wood bar add an element of sophistication. (If you really want to get swanky, ask for seats in The Red Room. Or, there’s even a huge penthouse room that can be rented out for large events.) The food matches the breezy outdoor vibe, with wood oven pizzas, designer burgers and small plates to share. The large entrees like the grilled salmon start to get pricey at around $18, but the seasonal white mushroom pizza or turkey burger with pepperoni relish on an English muffin will only set you back $13. This place is really about the atmosphere though. If you want really posh eats, graze at a few locations in Chelsea Market next door, then stop into The Park for drinks.

Murray’s Cheese Bar: What could be better than wine and cheese? Murray’s Cheese Bar is an extension of their amazing cheese shop. As the restaurant itself is small, your best bet may be to book a private event at the cheese shop, which has a great room overlooking the whole cheese paradise. A certified cheese expert can serve you delicious morsels and tell you a bit about each scrumptious bite while you wash it down with plenty of bubbly. Or make a reservation in the restaurant, where you can indulge in decadent mac and cheese ($12) or nibble on a grilled artichoke heart salad ($10) in between bites of cheesy goodness.

Westville: Oh man, Westville. Sometimes I have dreams about you. You are just so good. This gem is all about fresh and local. Believe it or not, my absolute favorite dish is the market side plate: four of their to-die-for vegetable sides, like zucchini with tomatoes and mozzarella, mashed sweet potatoes, or brussels sprouts with honey dijon. The market veggie plate will run you $12, while a grilled pork chop smothered in red-wine mushrooms will be about $15. There are four locations, but only the Hudson St. location takes reservations (for parties of 6 or more only). Opt for this location so you don’t end up waiting.

Late-Night Eats

It’s after midnight. You’ve been partying the night away. You are hungry. Here is where your dreams will come true.

Artichoke Basille Pizza: Sinfully delicious pizza. The East Village location is open until 5am—yep, you read that right—or you can stop in the West Village or Chelsea locales until midnight. Best known for their white pie with artichoke and spinach.

This Little Piggy: As the rhyme goes, “…had roast beef,” and you shall too. Order it “This Way” (with aus juz and cheese whiz) or “That Way” (with gravy and fresh mozzarella). Either way, it will be the most perfect drunk food you have ever consumed. Also located in the East Village and open until 5am.

Crif Dogs: You’ve never had a hot dog like this. My personal favorite is the tsunami dog, which is wrapped in bacon and topped with pineapple, green onions and teriyaki sauce. Bonus: The phone booth is actually the entrance to a speakeasy, PTD. Pick up the phone to dial for entry, but be warned that they keep the numbers low so the bar isn’t overcrowded. You can make a reservation to be sure you’re admitted. East Village, open until 4am.


Brunch is an event in NYC. If reservations are accepted, I highly recommend you make one. But some of these places are good ol’ fashioned first come first serve. Just be prepared to wait (it’ll be worth it).

Friend of a Farmer: Fresh food that will make you feel good about yourself and say yum! The vibe is a rustic country house and the dishes match. The pumpkin pancakes with toasted walnuts ($13) are just tooo much goodness or opt for smoked salmon scrambled eggs for a taste of New York ($14). Located in Gramercy.

Calle OchoThe trek to the Upper West Side will be worth it when you encounter this Spanish brunch spot’s number one draw: an unlimited sangria bar is included with your meal and presents you with eight different flavors to sample, from the Spanish Harlem spiked with dark rum and a pinch of cinnamon to the Havana Banana with tropical creme de banana and coconut. Try the wild mushroom paella ($15) or a chorizo and scrambled egg burrito ($14) to soak up the liquid deliciousness.

Sarabeth’s: Sarabeth’s is a New York institution, well known for serving a classy and scrumptious brunch. Order their porridge Mama Bear (cream, raisins and honey) or Big Bad Wolf style (wheatberries and brown sugar). Be sure to include some kind of baked good in your meal—they’re known for their breads and jams. Multiple locations  all over town.

88 Palace: Take brunch in a new direction by having dim sum, the Chinese equivalent. The foods are more like what you’d typically want for lunch, so don’t go in expecting eggs and pancakes. It’s more like morning tapas. Small carts wheel around this cavernous space at the top of a strange strip mall. Don’t be alarmed as you enter and wind past cellphone vendors and free clinics. 88 Palace occupies the entire top floor and is a revelation. Be sure to grab a plate of roast pork puns, but be adventurous! Each plate is only around $5.


No girls trip is complete without treats, am I right? Whether you want to order a special cake for the bride or just want a sweet stop off, here are my favorite treat destinations.

For cookies, try City Bakery. Though the best chocolate chip cookie in the city is a hotly debated topic, many give City Bakery the title for their chewy yet soft cookies with a hint of salt. If you’re visiting during February, you’re in luck! For their Hot Chocolate Festival, the bakery creates a new hot chocolate flavor every day.

For ice cream, I gotta go with Sundaes and Cones. Why? It’s right by my office! No, seriously, this is good ice cream. Super-creamy and rich, with your favorite standbys, but a few Asian-inspired offerings as well, like red bean or green tea.

For cookies and ice cream, track down the Cool Haus truck for an ice cream sandwich like you’ve never seen before. Make your own cool combination, like a red velvet cookie with yogurt and berries ice cream or a potato chip and butterscotch cookie with salted caramel ice cream. You can even eat the wrapper! (Not as weird as it sounds.)

For cupcakes, hit up Two Little Red Hens. (Also, scones. Man I miss those scones!) NYC has this trend for supersweet sugary icing on cupcakes and I just do not like that. So Two Little Red Hens is my perfect cupcake. The icing is not overwhelmingly sweet and the cakes are moist. Brooklyn Blackout will send you into a double chocolate coma, but I personally have to go with the carrot cupcake as their cream cheese frosting is divine!

For pie, you’re going to have to trek to Brooklyn for Four & Twenty Blackbirds. Could you find good pie in NYC? Oh sure. But this pie is hands down my favorite in the city. Like, have-daydreams-about-salted-caramel-apple-goodness amazing.

So, what are your favorite spots for brunch, dinner and treats in NYC? Have you planned a bachelorette weekend in the city and had success (or failure) with certain spots? Leave suggestions in the comments!

Summer Vacation: Nova Scotia and Maine

If you noticed a week’s absence, it was because I was busy boycotting all digital communication during my week of vacation. The boyfriend and I took a trip to his family cabin in Nova Scotia followed by a few days at a relaxing resort in Bar Harbor, Maine.


We started the trip with three days in Nova Scotia. We spent one day in Halifax, where we sampled brews at Alexander Keith’s Brewery. This is legitamately the only IPA I have ever enjoyed in my life. It was so bubbly and crisp, completely unlike the bitter concoctions I’ve sampled in the States. We also stopped at Peggy’s Cove lighthouse around sunset, where I discovered Lobster Lane!

IMG_1989I attempted to enjoy some form of lobster at least once a day. I got it in during breakfast with some delicious scrambled eggs and homemade bread at Kiwi Cafe in Chester and at dinner at The Trellis Cafe near Hubbards with some decadent lobster ravioli. These restaurants were my two favorites of the entire trip. Highly recommended! 

946425_909707915953_1986509901_nOn our last day in Nova Scotia we took a drive down the southern coast in an attempt to stop at a section of Kejimkujik National Park, but were thwarted by a dirt road that we weren’t quite sure our rental car could handle. We did manage to find a beautiful rocky shoreline nearby and hiked up and down the coast checking out tide pools and some seriously colorful seaweed. I admit that I did not think seaweed could be pretty, but you haven’t experienced real seaweed until you see it in the northeast.  Continue reading

A Pink and Sky-Blue Candy Bar Shower

Oh hello, gorgeous candy bar! My eyes lit up at the sight of this flawlessly coordinated pink and sky-blue shower with a stunning candy display as the centerpiece, crowned by a rock candy tree. But even though the decor is totally envy-inducing, I think what I love most are the special moments photographer Robert Swapp managed to captured at this California shower—check out the epic high-five shared as two guests win Bride Bingo or the sweet shot of the bride thanking a friend for a gift. Plus, who can resist a bride who color coordinates with her shower? All she needs is a glass of pink champagne and she’d blend in seamlessly. IMG_1866-L 002_IMG_1883-L 003_IMG_2019-L 005001_IMG_1844-L 006 IMG_1861-L 008_IMG_2000-L 009_IMG_1902-L 010 011A_IMG_2072-L 012_IMG_2174-L 013_IMG_2186-L 014

Tea Party Bridal Shower Inspiration

A tea party is one of the most common bridal shower themes, but it can sometimes come off a bit matronly. Don’t fall into the trap of pastel-on-pastel or doilies overload! I’ve compiled inspiration and ideas for creating an elegant tea that’s the perfect mix for a vintage yet modern bride.001 patterned table settingFirst, let’s talk decor. The key to a strikingly gorgeous tea party is restraint. It can be tempting to pile pattern on pattern—doilies, lace, patterned tablecloths, floral china, bright burst of flowers—but it’s all too much. The intricate beauty of china patterns will be completely lost if there’s no respite. The eye needs negative space to appreciate the beauty of a simple object. Solution? A neutral canvas. Stay away from patterned or lace tablecloths, instead opting for the plain wood grain of the table or a cloth in a solid, warm shade. If you must incorporate lace, use it as a table runner. Above, brightly patterned seat cushions and beautifully mismatched china are balanced with white flowers and a sandy tablecloth. 002 tea party inspiration Here, a lace runner adds a little touch of femininity to a strong wood table, and rattan place mats balance the floral china. The white teapot doesn’t distract from the delicate pale pink roses—a patterned pot might overwhelm them! (Learn how to make teapot flower arrangements here.)
004 table settingYou can use this image as a guide to creating a proper table setting, gorgeous in its simplicity. Again, there’s plenty of wood here to balance the pastel pink and lace. The china is the star and the flatware and glassware become neutral accents.

Next up, invitations. By now you should be seeing a theme in the types of invitations I choose—modern and clean with strong typography. Pastel, lacy invites with birdcages and curly calligraphy are really, really not my cup of tea (excuse the pun). So it should be no surprise that my two favorite tea party invites have clean, crisp designs with a little dash of cute. You can find the pastel orange invite here and the charcoal and pink teacup invite here.005 pastel tea cup invitation006 tea cup bridal shower invite

Your first important decision is what tea to serve. Whatever flavor you choose, make it loose leaf! The difference between bagged and loose tea is night and day. Loose tea has a much more concentrated and complex flavor. This is a party, so spring for the good stuff! It’s not even that expensive! You can find lots of nice affordable loose teas at Whole Foods or World Market. Can’t find loose tea in your area? Mighty Leaf is an online retailer with a good variety at reasonable prices. Here’s a great video that shows how to brew loose leaf tea.

leaf teasIf you haven’t tasted a certain tea before, you can get a pretty good idea of what it will taste like by smelling it. It might be nice to choose a few different types of teas, like a black, a green, an oolong, a chai or a flavored. At a traditional tea party, you would brew the tea in the kettle, pour it into pots and then serve your guests from the teapot. But if you want to let guests sample several teas, create a tea bar with a kettle of hot water and filters or tea balls, and guests can brew their own cups. Either way, be sure to use some of the tea as decoration by setting out little bowls so the smell of it fills the room.

tea bar 3The traditional accompaniment to high tea is an array of tea sandwiches. I’ve compiled some of my favorite finds here, from modern spins on traditional tea sandwiches courtesy of the BBC to healthy updates on multigrain crackers.

traditional and modern tea sandwichesGingered pea and green goddess tea sandwiches
gingered pea and green goddess sandwichesI love this triple berry kale salad as an accompaniment. It’s light and refreshing with bursts of sweetness from the berries and a bit of crunch from the almonds (plus, there’s a tart strawberry vinaigrette).010 triple berry kale saladIf it were up to me, I’d make the tea sandwiches, but order dessert. I just do not have the skill nor the time to produce gorgeous fruit tarts like these!

013 mini fruit tarts

If you’re inspired and brave enough to make your own desserts though, try to strike a balance between decadence and freshness. This honey tea cake could be paired with fresh berries and whipped cream, while these shortbread tea cookies would be perfect for dipping (though the Queen would disapprove).011 honey tea cake 012 tea bag cookies Have you heard of a champagne tea? Well, now you have! Champagne teas are actually quite common (and traditional) for celebratory events. Start the party off with a glass of pink champagne, move onto your tea, sandwiches and cakes, then cycle back to champagne to keep the guests in the spirit.

pink champagneYou’re hosting a tea party, so you’re going to need tea things. The ideal situation is that a friend or relative has a tea set you can borrow, but as social calls no longer seem to involve much tea, you may have to purchase a teapot and set of cups for the event. Beautiful vintage pieces can be found on Etsy, some at surprisingly affordable prices, or you can buy modern pieces (many of which still look vintage). I particularly like the selection of patterned teacups at Anthropologie.

anthropologie teacupsWant to play a party game that doesn’t involve toilet paper wedding dresses? I’m sort of in love with this tea-leaf reading kit.019 tea leaf reading kitFor your gift to the bride-to-be, I love these personalized teacups with a custom sketch of the happy couple.020 custome couple teacupsFor guest favors, give tea! The cute little packages on the left come filled with chai tea (my personal favorite), stamped with a sweet slogan and wrapped in twine. Loose tea is so beautiful by itself, so test tubes are the perfect way to show it off. Plus, it’s an easy DIY project—all you need is loose tea, test tubes, corks and gift tags.

tea party favorsFor more inspiration, check out my tea party bridal shower board on Pinterest.

This post contains a few affiliate links. All products are selected because we love them—if you love them too, you’re helping support Ultimate Bridesmaid. So thanks! 

Gift Guide: For Foodies and New Yorkers (and Brooklynites!)

ultimate bridesmaid gift guide for foodies and new yorkers

New Yorkers and Brooklynites: Jim Datz City Series Brooklyn | Rifle Paper Co. 2013 Cities Calendar | City Storyteller Scarf | Pixelated Brooklyn Bridge Tee | Manhattan Pillow

Foodies: McClure’s Pickles | David Rio Tiger Spice Chai | Cast-Iron Bacon PressDIY Cheese Kit | Wine Ice Cream

Fiesta Bridal Shower Inspiration

Everyone loves a fiesta, especially in the summertime. The colors are bright, the food is delicious and the drinks are strong—the perfect inspiration for a fun backyard bridal shower. My advice is to not go too literal on the invitations—in other words, stay away from sombreros, tacos or margaritas. Instead choose color palettes and motifs that evoke the occasion. This Etsy number uses spot-on color combos, but a modern chevron pattern. I also love the mix of fonts, which really gives the invite an personalized look.

The decorative flourishes on the edges of this invite from Wedding Paper Divas evoke a festive fiesta, but white space and typography make it seem a bit more fancy.

I also like this option from Polka Dot Design. It’s a simpler version of the Etsy invite above, but as a bonus they have napkins and Lucite serving trays in the same pattern (and the back is printed in allover chevron).

Now decor. The traditional choice would be Fiesta ware, but if you can’t get your hands on the real stuff, ask around for brightly colored plates and serving bowls and mix and match for an eclectic feel. I love the mix and match feel of this tablescape: bright traditional Mexican textiles as a tablecloth, mix-and-match colored plates and a few quirky pieces in the center.

I also love the chic simplicity of this setting. The colored glassware in particular pops on the table and the sunflowers evoke the perfect summer mood.

Can we talk about how adorable this idea is?? Flowers in limes!

For drinks, I love the look (and taste!) of this strawberry basil sangria, made with chardonnay and a bit of club soda for bubbles. Add don’t forget the margaritas, of course.

A serve-yourself taco stall looks adorable and lets guests regulate the amount of spice they like in their food. Fill small bowls with chopped lettuce, diced jalepenos, halved cherry tomatoes, and slices of red onions and avocados. Then choose your fillings. For a no-hassle option, you can always shred rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, but if you want to fancy it up, try these tequila-glazed chicken thighs (then shred into taco-sized pieces). For a delicious and fresh salsa topping for your tacos, boil sweet corn for about 10 minutes, then use a knife to take the kernels off the cob. Next, mix with chopped avocado and cherry tomatoes. Stir in two tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons sea salt, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro and the juice of one lime.

For a side dish, I love these grilled sweet potato fries with lime cilantro vinaigrette. They’re super easy to make and taste delicious.

And for dessert, you have to go with Mexican wedding cookies! Check out a recipe here.

Additional sources: Hostess with the Mostess Mexican fiesta, fiesta and The Stir table settings.

This post contains a few affiliate links. All products are selected because we love them—if you love them too, you’re helping support Ultimate Bridesmaid. So thanks!