[Lunch & Dinner] Charlie Bird

If you know me, you know I have a slight obsession with Charlie Bird‘s farro salad. Why obsess over a salad, you ask? Because it’s delicious, fresh, intriguing and somewhat guilt-free.

Charlie Bird NYC Farro Salad Beaches & Brie

This salad helped me appreciate pistachios in a brand new way because YES, it has pistachios! The parmesan shavings on top just add another level of saltiness greatness, making each bite come to life a bit more.

I have yet to recreate this salad at home but NYT Cooking and All Day I Eat have some great ideas on how to start!

Charlie Bird Cacio e Pepe NYC restaurant Beaches & Brie

Another Charlie Bird favorite? Their Cacio e Pepe. Creamy but so good, I mean, just look at it! They also have a prix fix lunch menu during the week where you can get a small plate (think: farro salad)  AND a pasta for $32. Not super cheap, I know, but it’s worth treating yourself to a nice lunch if you are in the area, especially if it’s a nice day out and you can take advantage of their outdoor seating.

gnocchi Charlie Bird Beaches & Brie

The gnocchi is also another solid option. Try starting with the burrata option, another great pick, but NEVER as a substitution to the farro salad. Promise?

charlie bird burrata nyc beaches & brie

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Snack Time: 6 Snacks To Check Out

From a new twist on to-go meals to vegan cookies that don’t suck, I was able to try a lot of fun new snacks in the latest Snack Attack Editor Showcase.

Check out some of my favorites below!

terra sweet plantains terra plantains new snack delicious beaches & brie

Terra Sweet Plantains

I personally love that plantains are becoming more mainstream. As a Puerto Rican, I’ve grown up knowing there is no such thing as too much plantains. I’ve always been a fan of Terra chips (and by fan, I mean I’ve been known to devour a whole bag of sweet potato chips in one sitting) so I am excited to see them rolling out these two new flavors. They are addictingly tasty but also only have 3 ingredients, so don’t feel too guilty.

cucina & amore quinoa meal

Cucina & Amore Quinoa Meal

Guys, this one might be life changing. It’s your very own quinoa meal ready to eat, wherever you go and it actually tastes good. They are very generous on their topping, I just personally feel like I could eat a lot more of it. My trick? I bring a supplemental side to make this a meal, whether it’s leftover chicken or a simple soup.

farmer's pantry cornbread crisps

Farmer’s Pantry Cornbread Crisps

At first I was like ew, weird, but these crisps actually taste like cornbread. Nice and crispy, they make for a fun snack in the middle of the day.

sheila's gluten free

Sheila’s Cookie Bites

I’ve loved Sheila’s Brownie Brittle since day one. Now she has a gluten free option! PLUS she came out with these delicious crisp chocolate chip cookie bites. Having one alone is not possible, but I invite you to try.

naturipe snacks healthy

Naturipe Snacks

I had been having the Sargento Snack Packs, which I like, but felt like they were not enough. Naturipe gives it a nice healthy addition, you can get your cheese now accompanied by some sort of nut and fruit. They have different combinations too, so that you don’t get bored.

 

vegan cookies

Miche’s Kitchen

So now, I am not vegan but I can appreciate vegan meals and totally respect the lifestyle. For someone who loves diary, these were pretty good. I only tasted the coconut flavor, but if that’s any indication of the rest, it’s worth giving these a shot.

Have you tried any of these snacks? Any other snacks you currently can’t get enough of? Let me know, I am alway in the lookout for snacks!!

I received snacks to try for this post, opinions are my own.

[Thailand] My Friends, The Elephants

elephant jungle sanctuary cristina nogueras beaches & brie thailand

I can’t remember who was the first person to tell me to watch where I was going to see elephants in Thailand, I just remember knowing that I needed to educate myself instead of just showing up somewhere random. I knew I wanted to see these beautiful animals, I just wanted to do it responsibly so that I wasn’t contributing to their pain.

Through research and personal accounts of people living in Thailand, I found The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. The elephants in the sanctuary have been rescued from riding camps or other places where they were treated unfairly and abused. There, they are provided with everything they need within a safe space. Some may argue that they are still not in ideal conditions, but it’s better than what they had before. Also, as one of the volunteers argued, they have been captive for so long, they are not fit to survive in the wild on their own. Elephants are not meant to be ridden, it’s not natural for them.

We arrived to the sanctuary on the back of a mini truck, well aware that we were in for adventure and that we were going to be in the throws with the elephants.

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We started by changing our shirts and wearing the traditional karen clothing so that the elephants would feel more familiar with us. In order to really win their friendship from the start, we fed them lots of bananas. Literally banana after banana, after banana… they can really eat!

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elephant jungle sanctuary cristina nogueras beaches & brie thailand

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We walked around and brought them sugar canes for them to eat. Again, impressive to watch these beautiful beasts eat. This one even tried to eat my GoPro.

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I must admit I was a bit scared. They are beautiful, yet intimidating beasts. They were gentle and friendly and to me, it was scary to think they could be so friendly that they could hurt me without realizing so. For example, being together on the river, a quick playful roll could have basically killed me. Maybe it was just me being cautious, but those thoughts were always in the back of my mind.

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Still, I was able to enjoy and admire them up close and in their natural habitat. We literally got into the mud with them, I went in barefoot to a pile of God knows what. I legit probably stepped on their poop more than once but hey, I did not come all the way to Thailand to stay clean and watch from afar, right?

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The mud made jumping in to the river 10 times more amazing. Sure, the elephants still pooped on the water there, but hey, at least I could clean myself! It was really an experience like no other. The closeness with nature (think walking barefoot through the jungle) and the majesty of these animals (think huge elephant running around like a puppy) was just absolutely incredible.

elephant jungle sanctuary cristina nogueras beaches & brie thailand

elephant jungle sanctuary cristina nogueras beaches & brie thailand

This day really made me want to continue exploring ecotourism. It was interesting, yet not surprising, that the group was composed of people like me from around the world (mid/late twenties all the way to mid/late thirties) hungry for meaningful experiences that do not cause harm and help you learn about the awesome world we live in.

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[Thailand] Best Stay of My Life

There’s traveling. Then there’s traveling for your honeymoon.

Your heart is still full of wedding joy, eager to embrace whatever comes, thirsty for adventures. There are no limitations from the body, mind or even your wallet. With the excuse of “once in a lifetime” we say yes to everything that ignites a sense of passion for this amazing world we live in.

During our Thailand honeymoon, we decided to stay at the Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas during our stay in Phuket and let me tell you, we were absolutely blown away. Never in my sweet life had I stayed in a place like this. We had our own private villa with a private pool, outdoor shower, lagoon cabana and excellent service. I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

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Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

I know Puerto Rico is my paradise, but this place was out of this world. Outside of our villa, the views were not that bad either, including sunset cocktails up on a tree house. Every detail here was taken care of, from lighting up torches before the sunset to welcome drinks by the water so you don’t even have to sweat your check-in process.

Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

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Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas - Cristina Nogueras - Beaches and Brie - Phuket Thailand

Forget about work hard, play hard.

Work hard, relax harder.

[Dinner AND Brunch] Welcome to the neighborhood, Union Hall!

In case you missed it, Union Hall finally opened up its doors last week. I was skeptical going in but very hopeful that I could potentially find here my new favorite spot.

Spoiler alert: it did not disappoint.

The vibe is super chill and all their menu is based on small plates. I didn’t know this going in, but it’s the same owners as Brass Rail and Stewed Cow. The chef was also in Chopped and well, to me that’s pretty cool. Staff was super nice and you can tell they are excited to work there, which is always a plus.

Enough about people, let’s talk food.

Or wait, let’s talk drinks for a second. They have $5 martinis on Wednesdays! Their dirty martini is actually pretty darn good. I would have liked to have some blue cheese inside my olives but that’s ok, I’ll let it pass. They have great specials every day of the week including $2 Union Brew mugs every. single. day.

Ok, now for food, for real.


They may look like hush puppies, but these are actually french onion soup mac and cheese balls! They even come with their own little broth on the side, delicious. Tip: don’t be afraid to embrace the broth! (Did I say these were great?)


They had three sliders that you could order individually, but we decided to go all out and try the 3 of them out: veggie, turkey burger, and lobster. Brian and I both agreed the veggie slider was the best because the sauce was so good.


I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen plenty of pins on Pinterest and videos on Facebook about the wonder that is cauliflower fried rice. I’ve been meaning to cook it at home but I’m always too lazy. Union Hall is the first restaurant I’ve been to that offers cauliflower fried rice as part of their menu. It was probably the best part of the meal. Plus, it comes in this cute little take-out style box so, totally recommend it.

union hall steak

Source: Union Hall

We also got a hanger steak with blue cheese that made me think why I don’t order more steaks with blue cheese. I love blue cheese or any cheese for that matter, I guess.


That may look like a tall shot of something creamy but it’s actually a mini milkshake! The waiter explained how they have different special milkshakes every day and the day we went in it was fruit loops. I must admit I was waiting for a mini version of those Black Tap shakes that can give you diabetes so I was a little disappointed when it didn’t have an actual fruit loop in it, but boy oh boy, it was SO good. It tasted like those last drops of milk from the fruit loop bowl.

Noooooooooooooow… BRUNCH!

First, they have $2 mimosas! Can’t tell you how they were because I didn’t have one (stupid, I know) but I will be back and can update based on the verdict. Again, $2 mimosas!


Breakfast tacos for the win. Get them with bacon, it was actually quite perfectly crisped. I can get picky about bacon and there’s nothing worse than a soft piece of bacon. (That’s what she said? No? Ok, sorry.) Their avocado toast was ok, but not something to die for. (You should never die for an avocado toast, anyways.) It’s a nice side to share but by no means it should be one of your main plates.


Their skillets were actually really good. If I hadn’t been so full with the breakfast taco I would have killed them all but thank goodness I brought Brian along. We had one inspired by eggs Benedict and the other one had goat cheese and some other great stuff.

There’s still so much I want to try over at Union Hall so stay tuned on my Instagram for future posts. I’m determined to try everything on their menu so let’s see how it goes. 

P.S. Their coffee was pretty good too!

 

 

[Dinner] Casa Apicii

Do I try a new restaurant for a chance of greatness or do I go back to a restaurant I already know and love?

This is hands down my biggest challenge when deciding where to go eat. Sometimes I feel defeated by the realization that I will never be able to eat at every single restaurant in NYC and just opt for a classic spot, but more times than not I go to my ever-growing restaurant bucket list and just pull the trigger. 

Last week I went to Casa Apicii and despite the heat inside their back dining area, had an amazing meal.

casa apicii cocktail cristina nogueras beaches and brie

Let’s start with their house cocktail, the Casa Apicii. Their online menu says this drink is made with vodka, crème de peche, aloe, lemon and bitters… but I could have sworn the menu at the table said something about ginger. I love ginger. Still, whatever it had, it was absolutely amazing. Not too sweet or too bitter, and super refreshing.

burrata cristina nogueras beaches and brie

Next, the burrata. I mean, burrata by itself is already all my little heart needs but for it to come served on top of a pea purée with some crunchy, yet super thin bacon strips? Perfection. All the flavors came together nicely and took the burrata to the next level. Yes, such a next level exists.

pasta cristina nogueras beaches and brie

Last but not least (because let’s face it, am I really gonna have space for dessert?) … pasta! Now, before you go ahead and judge me for what looks like a very plain dish, let me tell you that the pasta was insanely good. It is as thick as pasta can be before it crosses the line to being too thick. It was also perfectly and evenly cooked. I don’t think I had ever enjoyed a pasta this thick. The sauce was not super heavy, yet it was loaded with flavor. Can’t go wrong with a classic! Brian had the pasta alla carbonara but was too hungry to let me take a picture of his plate. Ah, marriage.

Oh yeah, I got married. 🙂 (How about I tell you more about that soon?)

Back to Casa Apicii. Great meal, but come prepared to spend a little bit as things add up pretty quickly. Afterwards, you can enjoy a stroll through the neighborhood and admire the gorgeous buildings. Or you can be like me, get on the Path back to Hoboken and accidentally stop by Insomnia Cookies. 🙂

5 Year New York Anniversary


This week marks my five year getting-a-one-way-ticket-to-new-york-and-getting-my-first-job anniversary. This is pretty big for me, not only is five one of my favorite numbers but now I can also say that I’ve been in New York City for half a decade. That may not be much for some people, but for me, it’s an accomplishment that makes me feel proud of my strengths… and even my weaknesses.

You see, New York City is a drug. You say it’s just for a little while, you know it’s bad for you, but decide it’s worth it for those glorious moments. It hurts you, it brings you down, yet you can’t get enough of it. You know you are ruined for life because nowhere else will be New York. People tell you it’s bad for you and at certain points, you believe them. But then, something amazing happens that keeps you tangled within the vines of this concrete jungle. 

When I was younger and addicted to Nicholas Sparks and Harlequin Romance (Yes, I am ashamed) I had this vision of moving to New York City, becoming a writer and meeting a handsome man as he accidentally grabbed my coffee at the Starbucks I would go to write my latest novel. Ridiculous, right? I didn’t even drink coffee back then. Also, who writes a novel at Starbucks? That’s what those cute little independent coffee shops are for.

Still, New York always seemed magical to me and although I never realized it, I always knew I wanted to end up here. Did I imagine this dirty, messy reality that is Manhattan? Not quite, but even beyond the smelly street corners and the questionable characters, I have been able to find magic in New York. Sometimes in way of a kind stranger (yes, they have those here) or a delicious, Instagram-worthy meal.

I can feel the conflicting emotions within me just as I write this post. Half of me is swaying away in a whimsical fairytale praising this city for the dreams it inspires and the other half is banging her head against the wall, wondering why am I still here. New York can be cruel, it’s raw and it doesn’t ask for forgiveness. It makes you strong by necessity and you also immediately forget how to walk slowly. There is no explanation, it just happens. There is no slow here. There is also no stopping. There’s just going and going and going and going. 

Five years. I’m still here. 🙂

Thank you, New York, for making me a fighter even when I am not even aware of what the fight is all about.