My Favorite City in Georgia: Savannah

Washing cars, babysitting, and selling homemade lasagnas, flans, cookies, and chicken. That’s how 12-year-old Cristina paid for her first trip to Savannah, Georgia with her dear Girls Scout troop 133 from San Juan, Puerto Rico. I had the privilege of doing my crossing from Junior to Cadette in the same building where the Girls Scouts founder, Juliette Gordon Low, grew up. While I don’t remember everything from that trip, I remember it being a special place and it remained as such in my heart for years.

Flash forward to today and I am now lucky to live only a 4-hour drive away from this beautiful city. I made my grand return last year for my birthday and since then, I’ve been back two more times. I can’t get enough of this city.

I am excited to share with you what I’ve explored, what we’ve discovered, and what I’ve yet to encounter.

Where to stay in Savannah

Savannah is super walkable so bring comfortable shoes and get ready to explore. I switched back and forth between sandals and my converse and had zero issues. Due to its walkability, where you stay matters. Thankfully, Savannah has plenty of options.

Planters Inn – We stayed here for my birthday and the location was perfect, right next to The Olde Pink House. I found it to fit well within our budget and didn’t have any complaints.

The Perry Lane Hotel – If you have a loftier budget, you should check out The Perry Lane Hotel. I have not stayed there but their bars are great and their interiors look stunning. From The Peregrin on the rooftop to The Wayward downstairs on their building across the street, you’ll find amazing cocktails and even some yummy snacks.

The Grant by Black Swan AirBnb – Short-term homestays are another solid option and this one was in a fantastic location. We were right in the heart of all the action and were able to easily walk in and out of the apartment as needed. It is right across the street from Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken which was perfect for breakfast after a fun night out (nothing helps a hangover quite like a fried chicken biscuit sandwich with fountain diet coke). This Airbnb does not include parking so if you have a car you will have to find street parking or a parking deck.

VRBO by Lucky Savannah – A little further out but still within the historic district, this spot was available for a last-minute summer visit. Street parking was a lot easier here compared to the previous Airbnb option. This property is dog friendly if you are interested in bringing your pup!

Where to eat & drink in Savannah

Here’s a list of all the places we visited last year. The classifications of dinner, lunch, etc. are based on my experience so I definitely encourage you to check each spot to see what else they offer! I highly recommend you make reservations for dinner. Places like The Olde Pink House, for example, book well out in advance.

I also included a list of the spots I still have to try in case you want to check them out too. You can find them at the end of this post.

Dinner

HuskI had been to the Husk in Greenville, South Carolina for brunch but going to the Husk for dinner was a totally different experience. In fact, without really trying, we ended up having dinner there on all three of our visits last year. The food is consistently delicious, even as the menu changes seasonally. I also was able to taste some delicious Georgia oysters. Yes, you read that right, apparently, Georgia has good oysters if you know where to search! Needless to say, this opened up a very interesting dinner conversation with my husband.

The Olde Pink HouseI highly recommend you make a reservation ahead of time so you can eat inside the historical (and allegedly haunted) house. I noticed the menu is the same in the other parts of the restaurant but dining in the main room definitely adds a special touch. Their food was delicious but what really makes the place is the history and ambiance. The downstairs bar had a great vibe and live music playing, perfect for sipping an old fashion or dirty martini.  

Cotton & Rye – This restaurant is a little ways out from the heart of the historic district but still walkable if you are feeling up for it. Pro tip: If there’s a wait, put your name down and walk two blocks up to Tacos + Tequila for a margarita while you wait.

Coco & MossThis spot was recommended for sushi. My friend and I went there for lunch and gravitated toward their bowl options and wow, they were delicious. I definitely want to go back and try their sushi though!

Cha Bella – This one is lower on my list but still wanted to include it as it’s a solid option if a lot of the other popular spots are booked. I really enjoyed their gnocchi.

Vic’s on The River – As you may have guessed by the name, this is one of the nicer spots on the river. I actually got stuck on a work call and was not able to make lunch here but my friends went and said it was nice. She said the fried green tomatoes were mediocre but the rest was good. I feel like it’s probably overrated due to its great location by the river.

Lunch / Brunch / Baked Goods

Gryphon Tea Room If you know me, you know I love a nice high tea experience. Champagne, little bites with explosive flavors, unique tea selections, and cute tea cups… what is there not to like? While some of the tea rooms that appeared in popular Savannah articles were not open anymore, the Gryphon did not disappoint. Located in a beautiful historical building and operated by SCAD, it was the perfect way to spend my birthday afternoon.

The Public Kitchen & Bar – We walked in for lunch and had a great experience. My husband loved his burger and I found my salad super refreshing.

The Crab Shack Although this is technically in Tybee Island (~25 minutes away from Savannah), I still wanted to include it on this list. It’s such a fun spot to get seafood –it truly lives up to its name. I loved sitting outside and the waiter even showed me how to properly eat a crawfish. Cool experience but will likely not order them again. Too much work for little meat.

Collins Quarter – This Australian Café was great for brunch. We sat outside and enjoyed people (dog) watching while sharing several breakfast plates. Pro tip: schedule a morning tour of the Juliet Gordon Low Birthplace and then cross the street for brunch at Collins Quarter.

Common – The brunch here was spectacular. If you go, please order their Good Morning Mac & Cheese. Your stomach may regret it but your happy soul never will.

Debi’s Restaurant – We stumbled here after trying to get breakfast at B. Matthews Eatery and failing miserably. To be fair, I think we were the last couple seated at Debi’s before a rush of people came through. A simple, homey feel with great food. I had their special which was some sort of lobster omelette and it was delicious.

The Paris Market – This charming boutique has a cute little café perfect for enjoying your coffee with a delicious baked good. I also found some unique gifts while browsing through the store.

Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken – As mentioned above, this spot was right across the street from one of the Airbnbs we stayed in and it was clutch. Fast and delicious, do yourself a favor and try their righteous chicken.

The Little Crown by Pie Society – This spot sells, you guessed it, pies! While I did not grow up with pies, I feel like the musical Waitress really helped me fall in love with these tasty dishes. Their pies did not disappoint. Most orders are made to-go but they do have a few seating options on the back if you want to eat it on the spot.

Drinks

The Peregrin & The Wayward – Both spots are part of The Perry Lane hotel and their cocktails are fantastic. Check out The Peregrin for sunset rooftop cocktails and then go down to The Wayward for a nightcap. Don’t miss the side room with a couple of arcade games if you are feeling playful.

Mint to Be Mojito Go here for some empanadas and you guessed it, mojitos! Stay for the surprise in the back. Warning, there may be some dancing involved for access. 

Bösendorfer Lounge at The Mansion on Forsyth Park – We first sort of stumbled into this bar after strolling down Forsyth Park. Both times we had no issues finding a post and getting a drink before walking over to whatever was our next destination. I’ve heard good things about the hotel’s restaurant, 700 Drayton, but have yet to try it.

Myrtle & Rose This cute rooftop garden is a must when you are strolling down by the river. I can’t vouch for the food or drinks but the view alone makes it worth it.

What to do in Savannah

Contrary to what this blog post may portray, there is more to do in Savannah besides eating. 😉 

River Street – You need to make your way down to River Street and stroll by the river to your heart’s content. As I mentioned above, there are several cool rooftop spots that will give you great views, especially at sunset.

Forsyth Park – After exploring River Street and all its quirks, make your way down to Forsyth Park through Bull Street. You’ll stumble upon a lot of cute little shops along the way. Depending on the weather, you will likely see plenty of local artists in the park showcasing their unique work. I still regret not buying a painting of Forrest Gump sitting on a bench with Pikachu.

Juliet Gordon Low Birthplace Whether you were a Girl Scout or not, I definitely recommend visiting the birthplace of Juliet Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts in the US. You don’t need to be familiarized with the scouting movement to appreciate the history and stories of the house and its past inhabitants. I recommend you check out their site before you visit as tours were by appointment only last year. 

Prohibition MuseumI am not gonna lie, from first glance I thought the Prohibition Museum was going to be super cheesy. To my surprise, however, I ended up learning a ton! From the loss of tax revenue to the hoops people jumped through to get some sort of alcohol, there are some twisted historical facts you’ll see on display. I definitely recommend a visit. We were easily able to walk in during the day on a Friday and just get our tickets at the door.

Pedal Pub I know a lot of cities now have this (heck, I saw one in Augusta, GA!) but I have to tell you, it was a blast. I now have done this twice in Savannah, once for my friend’s birthday (more bachelorette vibes) and once with a couple of friends (more chill). Both times were a blast and given Savannah’s open container laws, it’s a super seamless transition from pedal pub to bar. The pedal pub is a great way to explore new bars and make note of what places you want to return to later. 

Haunted Pub Crawl I am a scaredy cat when it comes to horror movies, ghost stories, etc. but I figured when in Savannah, let’s do a ghost tour! I left the research for this in the hands of my husband and he booked us what ended up being a fantastic tour. If you are interested in a ghost pub crawl, you have to go with Spooky Steve. Not only did we visit a variety of bars all over historic Savannah, but his storytelling is also excellent. I even ended up learning a little bit of history in the process!

Still on my list…

There’s always a next time, right? Anything I should add?

Leopold’s Ice cream

The Grey

700 Drayton Restaurant

Common Thread

Treylor Park

B. Matthew’s Eatery

Hitch

Bull Street Taco

St. Neo’s Brasserie

Rancho Alegre

Emporium Kitchen & Wine Market

Garibaldi’s

Flock to the Wok

Sorry Charlie’s Oyster Bar

Alleycat Lounge

Artillery Bar

Sting Ray’s Seafodd (Tybee Island)

I hope you find this post helpful! I love Savannah and want more people to experience the magic of this city. What are your favorite spots in Savannah?

How I Found The Best Tuna Tartare and Other Portuguese Tales [Vol. 3: Lisboa]

Sintra Portugal Cristina Nogueras

It may have taken me over a year to do it, but I am finally completing my Portugal series!

If you missed my earlier posts, here’s my post about the beautiful Porto and the great region of Douro. Ok, let’s do this!

Lisbon Lisboa Portugal Cristina Nogueras

What better way to learn the history from a city than with a light show projected on the ruins of a monastery? The Lisbon Under The Stars show was only in town for a limited amount of time, but I really hope other places around the world are following suit and doing similar presentations as they are such a rich experience. We sat in the middle of these ruins, under the stars… it was magical.

Lisbon Lisboa Portugal Cristina Nogueras Time Out Market Lisbon Tuna Tartare

Time Out Market Lisbon

During this trip I had, what I still consider the best tuna tartare I’ve ever tasted, and still have dreams about it. It was from the Tartar-ia booth if you want to go taste it and tell me all about your experience!

It was a busy hall, tourists everywhere but in spite of my hate for crowds and overly touristy spots, I really enjoyed it. There is one now in New York City too, if you want to explore it (overpriced, in my opinion, but great views). For the one in Lisbon, you had to camp out a little bit in order to get a table but once you did, you were set. There are SO many good things to try that you can spend hours eating and drinking from different renowned places without having to leave the hall. Definitely, recommend stopping here if you don’t have a lot of time to explore Lisbon, but want to have a good food variety. 

I also took the opportunity in Time Out Market to purchase even more canned fish selections from a local shop. No regrets. Seriously, canned fish from Portugal > any other canned fish. 

Lisbon Lisboa Portugal Cristina Nogueras

More food

Unlike other places in Portugal where we were able to make reservations the day of or just walk into excellent restaurants, I recommend you plan some special dinners ahead of time and make reservations. We, unfortunately, were not able to try some places on my list because of that same reason. Thankfully, Lisboa is full of culinary wonders and I still had an incredible experience. I did not write down every place we visited (sorry!) but I recommend you ask locals about their favorite places (your hotel receptionist, Airbnb host or random person at a bar!). 

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Our first night, we had a delicious dinner at Taberna da Rua das Flores, a small but cozy restaurant. They had a curated selection of small plates and I let the waitress recommend the best options for us. These crabs in steamed buns were absolutely amazing. We also had a goat cheese dessert that sounded kind of weird (not that common to have goat cheese in a dessert for me) but was actually really good! We did not have reservations and were able to just walk right in for an early dinner. 

Pasteis de nata fabrica da nata food Lisbon Lisboa Portugal Cristina Nogueras

Of course, we had to try the famous pastéis de nata. We may or may not have had these for breakfast every single day in Lisboa. 🙂 We did not make it to Pastéis de Belem for the “authentic” ones but these ones from Fábrica da Nata were honestly really good (and right next to our hotel). It’s great to go to the “original” or “popular” spots but a lot of times when traveling, it’s about striking a balance between what you are told and what you want to discover on your own.

Sintra Portugal Cristina Nogueras

Sintra

If you go to Lisboa, Sintra is a must. I know of people going only for the morning, the whole day or even stay overnight. We ended up spending the day there and it was lovely. There are several transportation options but since there were 3 of us (hey, Lala!) and we were being lazy, we decided to Uber to and from Sintra. Not bad at all when you are splitting it.

Sintra Portugal Cristina NoguerasSintra Portugal Cristina Nogueras

Once in Sintra, we had the option to walk up all the way to the Palacio Nacional da Pena or choose from other methods of transportations. We were kind of winging it at this point and up for exploring, so we decided to walk all the way up… nobody really told us what this entailed. Let’s start by saying I was not quite wearing the best “hiking” gear. There were people rock climbing up this trail and I was wearing my white converse, jeans, and a cute top. It probably took us about 2 hours, but we made it. Barely. I would encourage you to explore your transportation options. 🙂 If you are not a big fan of crowds I would also encourage you to wake up super early and get there when it opens. 

Sintra Portugal Cristina Nogueras FoodSintra Portugal Cristina Nogueras Food

After exploring the palace and the Castelo dos Mouros, (crowds, crowds!) we were FAMISHED. We hopped on one of the little tuk-tuks and made our way down. Once back in town, we stumbled upon Tascantiga Sintra and had a feast for basically zero dollars. We ordered way more food than we could handle, but wow, it was the best reward after an unexpected hiking day. We basically lived on ham, cheese, olives, cod, and wine for our entire week in Portugal. My kind of diet, if you ask me.  

Lisboa Lisbon Portugal Cristina NoguerasIMG_0478

There is a LOT to explore in Lisboa, so much that in fact, we barely made a dent on the list we had compiled prior to arriving. We were in a chill, exploratory mood and did not want to rush any of the wonderful experiences we were having. Sure, sometimes it’s fun to rush through places and activities in order to cover more things on your list, but most times I believe that doing less with more focus and intention is more valuable and enjoyable that skimming your way through a wonderful city such as Lisboa.  

For next time though, and for your own considerations, here are some places we did not make it to. Have you been to any? What was your experience like?

Food & drinks

To do & explore

  • Belem Tower
  • Praca do Comercio
  • Sao Jorge Castle
  • Tram 28 to Alfama
  • Monastery of St. Jerome

* BONUS! *

We did go to some other places in Portugal besides Porto, Douro and Lisboa. I don’t think we spent enough time exploring for me to share full-on recommendations but still wanted to share my experience briefly, just for reference. 

Fátima – I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school, so getting to see Fátima was truly special. We stopped there on our way from Douro to Albufeira. The day was gloomy so I don’t have great pictures, but it had a very solemn vibe. I had never seen people complete a pilgrimage so that was really impactful, especially the older folks that do so on their knees! Seeing such devotion and commitment in person is something truly special.

Albufeira Portugal Cristina NoguerasIMG_9844Albufeira Portugal Cristina Nogueras

Albufeira – If the Jersey Shore and Bourbon St. had a baby, it would likely be called Albufeira. It seems to be the place where all the Brits go for bachelor parties. Lots of fun, but not at all the “authentic, chill beach vibe” we were looking for. Still, we had a fun time, I mean, you are in a beach town in Portugal! I can’t wait to have the opportunity to return to the southern coast of Portugal for a proper vacation in such a beautiful area though!

I think that’s it! 🙂

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions about my experience. You can follow me on Instagram @cristina.nogueras to check out my latest photos and more.

Considering Daily Harvest? Here’s My Honest, Unpaid Opinion. [Review]

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I probably first heard of Daily Harvest over a year ago. Slowly but surely, I kept being targeted through multiple channels, you know how fun that can be. I had decided that it was not for me until I saw a food blogger, who is known for making her own recipes and doing lots of home cooking, try it and promote it with her own twist. She would make the harvest bowl meal at home, adding her own toppings and it made me reconsider. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a good base for your meal, already prepped?

I got a good starter deal, ended up being about $5 per cup, for 9 cups. Selections were good and Daily Harvest does a really good job of providing information about what you are about to get. Everything from ingredient explanation to a description of what it tastes like. It even tells you which cups are better for workout recovery, stress-relief, etc.

I’ll break down my experience by type of cup because they each have their own pros and cons. I am also including real images of what I got. 

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Harvest Bowls

The first bowl I tried I heated in a pan at home. It looked like a really small quantity so I added spinach, pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds. It was actually delicious but not filling enough, unfortunately. I was thinking I could make a batch of quinoa to heat up and add to the bowls which I think is great, but kind of defeats the purpose of the whole ready-to-go cup.

The second bowl I tried at work. I had to bring my own microwavable bowl as it seems the cups are not microwave-safe, a little hassle but not terrible. Once again, the food was not enough. It can’t be just me! When I am at home it’s more bearable since I will have other stuff available but when you bring a meal to work, you plan around it being successful. So there I was, still hungry at my desk thinking what I could do. Ended up getting a small salad which resulted in me wasting more time and money.

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Oat Bowls

I am used to making my own overnight oats at home with a base of yogurt. These bowls are mostly oats and fruit, with whatever you decide to add (I did almond milk) and I’m not used to the consistency. Flavor and quantity were good for breakfast. Further down this post, I included an expectation vs. reality comparison of the dragon fruit oat bowl. It looks beautiful but it’s actually deceiving in terms of what the product looks like and the quantity served. It is about half of what is shown. I get it, overflowing cups are better to show your product but it leads to disappointment.  

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Soups

I did not try any of their chilled soups because honestly, that’s not my thing so it wouldn’t be fair to taste and review something I already know I am not into. I did give the hot soups a try and they were good. The taste was not that different from your average Campbell’s soup but it seems like you are getting less sodium in the cup which will ultimately be better for you.

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Chia Bowls

Confession: I had never had a real chia bowl until this point. I put chia seeds in my personal overnight oats but I had never had these many chia seeds in one place! It was actually not that bad. I was not a big fan of the feel of the banana soaked overnight but the flavor was definitely there. Same critique with the oat bowls though, deceiving quantity and too expensive for what you actually get.

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Smoothies

If you look at the Daily Harvest ads, you would think your morning routine just got so much healthier and easier. Well folks, it wasn’t like that for me. First, my blender has the little contraption in the middle so the frozen chunk of smoothie did not fit properly. I had to cut it with a knife but it was not that simple, ended up ruining the little Daily Harvest cup it comes in so I was not able to pour it back in like they tell you to do. I added the amount of liquid indicated (I used almond milk) but after blending, it still did not have a drinkable consistency, it was more like a gelato. I had to add more almond milk before it was better. Same thing happened with another smoothie in which I used coconut water. Flavor wise it was ok – not bad, not amazing. I personally think the basic smoothies I make for myself are just as good (and cheaper). I did love their Cold brew + Almond smoothie, nice coffee boost for the morning.

Overall, you get good cups, but are they worth the price? Without a discount, on a regular plan, the lowest you can get a cup for is $6.99 and that entails ordering 24 cups at a time. $6.99 wouldn’t be terrible for lunch or dinner if it were filling enough, but $6.99 for a soup, smoothie or oat bowl? Not so much, but I guess it depends on where you live and what your usual food habits look like. For example, if you are going to a fancy smoothie bar for a $10 smoothie every day, then yes, this might be a good substitute, but if you have the time to source your own ingredients and make your own, that will be your best route.

Daily Harvest Blog

I do, however, see some value to always having some cups available in my freezer (better than having a frozen pizza), but given their subscription model, you can’t just buy a couple to have around just in case. You have to order a certain minimum per box, which makes sense from an effectiveness standpoint, you don’t want to waste all the packaging materials in one little cup. They are good with allowing you to cancel ahead of time so you can always skip if you want to keep your own schedule. I would recommend setting a reminder so you don’t get stuck paying for something you did not plan to.

If you want to try it, feel free to use my code: https://daily-harvest.com/r/RE-H2TYD89

With that discount code, you will get 3 free cups on your first order – that will be about $23 off right away as opposed to their regular welcome offer which is $30 off split across your first 3 boxes. I think getting the deal all at once on your first box is better if you are really hesitant or skeptical. That way you also reap the most benefits if you never order another box.

I think I knew Daily Harvest was not for me after the 3rd cup but I decided to finish the whole box before officially sharing my verdict. It’s just not enough food to justify the cost. I don’t regret trying it since I will no longer stress over the ads thinking “hmm should I try it?”. It also helped diversify my own meal prep by exposing me to some ingredients I would not normally think would go well together (hazelnuts in a brussel sprouts tahini bowl?). When reviewing their marketing materials, however, that’s when I lit up more. Their images are not accurate at all and that is a HUGE turn off for me. That’s disrespectful as a consumer. I am surprised they are able to run all of the images and videos they run because they are highly deceiving.

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Still, in the essence of keeping this review true to my experience, I have to say they do have good customer service. I had an issue with a delivery date – I was not going to be home and I guess my skipping did not go through (or in all honesty maybe I thought I skipped it, but forgot). Point is, I was able to get a generous credit for my next box which was very much appreciated.

So there you have it, Daily Harvest is not for me and I am ok with that.

Have you tried Daily Harvest?

If so, what did you think?

If not, were you considering it?

Let me know!

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Hello Fresh vs. Blue Apron [Real-life Review]

Blue Apron Chickpea Curry Bowl Meal Kit Cristina Nogueras

Chickpea Coconut Curry with Sweet Peppers & Rice from Blue Apron

Unless you are living under a rock without your phone and with no mail access, you’ve likely been served an ad by Hello Fresh and/or Blue Apron. They’ve been around for a while and while I was curious to try them from the start, I never felt like I would have time to actually cook all the meals before the ingredients went bad. I overcame that hurdle last September when I finally came to terms with the fact I could not give all my paycheck to Seamless anymore.

I wanted to try a meal kit service but with so many options out there I had no idea which one to start with. I decided I was going to go with the most popular one to start, but even that did not narrow it down too much. I ended up doing research on what I perceived to be the top three: Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Plated. I read LOTS of reviews online and narrowed it down to Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. So many reviews had one of these two options as their top choice and from looking online both offered similar experiences, so I decided to try each service out for myself and draw my own conclusions.

Before we dive in, here are some notes and disclaimers I would like to make:

  • There are a lot of details here, this is an actual breakdown of my experience. I find it helpful to have all the details when making decisions so you can decide what aspects of a service or product you value the most in order to make your own call.
  • I did not receive any sort of compensation or gifts for this post, I paid for both services from my own little pocket.
  • We used Blue Apron in both Atlanta and Hoboken, but we did not try Hello Fresh until we were in Atlanta. Not sure that matters but just in case!
  • Both services are top notch and always making updates, so for the latest and greatest on their offerings, do check their websites.
  • After you are finished reading, if you are interested in trying either service and would like me to send you a free box hit me up! I have a few boxes to give on each account so happy to share what I can!

Hello Fresh Enchiladas Cristina Nogueras Meal Kit Cooking

Salsa Verde Enchiladas with Poblano Peppers, Black Beans, and Monterey Jack Cheese from Hello Fresh

Menu Choices: Let’s start with the menu! From a purely mathematical standpoint, Hello Fresh has more menu options each week. It also offers gourmet and dinner 2 lunch options for additional fees. Hello Fresh also offers an option to add a side of garlic bread or other treats such as Baci chocolate truffles, all for an additional price. I did feel, however, that Blue Apron had more unique choices each week in terms of the plate and ingredients.

Pricing: If you are considering trying either service, please make sure you use a discount! They are EVERYWHERE so please take advantage of that. Overall, the more you order the cheaper it will be. I found my sweet spot was 3 meals a week for 2 people. Less than that would increase the price too much and more than that was cheaper but tougher to stay on track with cooking as there are days that you just want to be lazy.

  • Hello Fresh
    • Standard starter discount= Directly on their website you can claim $80 (usually spread out across first few boxes) or get $40 from a friend using the service.
    • Standard cost per plate= $10.15 (when you order 3 meals for 2 people in one week)
  • Blue Apron
    • Standard starter discount= Directly on their website you can claim $50 (usually spread out across first few boxes) or get a free box from a friend using the service.
    • Standard cost per plate= $9.99 (when you order 3 meals for 2 people in one week)

Delivery: I used to get my Blue Apron on Sundays but Hello Fresh did not offer that option (at least in Atlanta) so I chose Monday delivery. At first, it actually worked out ok because I did Sunday night meal prep for my lunches and didn’t feel obligated to cook twice but there were weeks that I wanted to have the cooking experience on a Sunday night so I do appreciate that Blue Apron offers delivery every day of the week. I did not have any issues with late deliveries or damaged boxes with either service.

Sustainability: I must say I am NO expert on sustainability but there are simple things that anyone can notice and Hello Fresh is definitely winning in this category, starting with the little package they’ve created to protect your ingredients. It could vary, but they tried to use recyclable or biodegradable materials to keep ingredients safe and cool inside the box. Both services have interesting ways of “saving” for example Blue Apron always sends me a whole garlic head even when I only need one or two cloves for the recipe. Hello Fresh sends me the exact number of cloves I need but it’s wrapped up in plastic so… which one is better? Blue Apron tends to individually wrap each ingredient in plastic whereas Hello Fresh gives you all the ingredients for a specific recipe in one paper bag (not individually wrapped). Big picture though, I like that they give you the exact ingredients you need so you avoid waste but with all the plastic and cartons you use each week to even get these ingredients delivered, is that really much of a difference?

Ingredients: Both Hello Fresh and Blue Apron have always included good quality ingredients. They both assume you already have some basic ingredients such as salt, pepper and olive oil. With Hello Fresh, however, they also assume you have other ingredients such as butter and vegetable oil. I tend to always have butter but I did not have your standard vegetable oil when the recipe called for it, so I ended up just using what I had (olive oil or avocado oil). Still, I personally prefer when Blue Apron sends you butter because they are usually nicer quality than your average butter that may or may not be close to expiring in your fridge. 🙂  Perhaps it was the choices I made but I felt like Hello Fresh repeated a lot of ingredients. I swear I was zesting lemons and mixing sour cream almost every time. With Blue Apron I thought it was nice that they integrated different types of cheeses, spices and cream to keep things different and interesting. Bonus for Hello Fresh though, I once did get one free sample of a waffle mix, decent sample size and all. Blue Apron, however, introduced a cool new line of products called Knick Knacks. The line features a combination of pre-portioned ingredients from Blue Apron’s premium suppliers and their own proprietary blends which you can buy through Jet.com and then get the rest of the ingredients for the recipe as you wish. It’s not available where I live yet, but I like the idea of being able to obtain a set of harder-to-find ingredients to create a special recipe without having to buy three meals from the service.

Recipe Difficulty: Blue Apron and Hello Fresh are both fairly easy. If my husband and I can do it, you all can do it too! I swear the first 3 Hello Fresh recipes all asked me to zest a lemon and I had never done that before. Not only did I not have the special tool (Update: I later Googled and learned you zest a lemon with a cheese grater which we did have), I was also confused by the ask. Blue Apron has cool, short videos that show you how to master simple cooking skills like dicing, for example. I’ve found those helpful and would have appreciated one on zesting lemons, for easy access. I found it interesting that both services organize steps and instructions a little differently. Blue Apron has been very clear at stating all the “prep” right at the beginning while I found some “prep” steps mixed in later steps for Hello Fresh. Blue Apron also tends to organize steps or sections depending on what you are making (a section for the rice vs. a section for the baking of certain ingredients) whereas it seems like Hello Fresh predicts a more normal flow and alternates between different parts of the recipe based on how it recommends you approach it. Honestly, they are both FINE, I think psychologically we just got used to the Blue Apron way and then were thrown a bit off by Hello Fresh but nothing ridiculous.

Taste: I did not try one recipe in either service that I could not eat. Sure, there were some favorites but everything was really good! Both services were good at keeping you honest on spice levels and how to make it your own with seasoning to taste. Brian loves all things spicy so I’ve been allowing myself to try a bit more spice every single time.

Gourmet Level: Again, no culinary professional here but I do feel like Blue Apron is a bit more elevated when compared with Hello Fresh at their standard price. We’ve done interesting Blue Apron recipes that mix more than one culture together, providing us with unique ingredients that would be a bit harder for us to get at our local grocery store. Hello Fresh does offer two plates every week as a choice for “gourmet” but you have to pay extra. Personally, at that point, I would rather just go to a restaurant to get a meal served for me but to be fair the recipes do look good!

Portions & Leftovers: I think overall, the portions are fine. As someone who likes to eat a lot, I’ve found it nice that they do portion control for you so you don’t end up going crazy. With Blue Apron I did end up having leftovers on some recipes, not a lot, but some. With Hello Fresh there were some instances where I felt I was still hungry after finishing a meal. Nothing devastating though. There were times when Brian had to cook Blue Apron without me because I was working late and the ingredients were going to go bad. In those instances, he prepped me a plate and I saved it for my lunch the next day. Most plates, however, do not do well reheated. For that reason, I’ve never done any of the plans that offer leftovers for lunch. That’s just my personal take though! I love prepping lunches but I like to think carefully about the menu to make sure it is something that will still taste delicious reheated.

Customer Service: Unfortunately, there were 3 occasions in which I was missing one or more ingredients in my Blue Apron order. At all times, I reported the missing ingredients through the app and received a credit for the amount of the plates affected (usually around $20). Not terrible, but obviously disappointing when you were already planning on having something for dinner and maybe did not have other easy options available. In 2 of the cases, I unfortunately lost most of the other ingredients by not being able to make the recipe due to what was missing. I did, however, attempt to make ramen without various key ingredients. It was… interesting. Let’s just say I made soy sauce soup. Oy. In the weeks with Hello Fresh not once were we missing an ingredient. I almost thought about faking that I was missing an ingredient just to compare the customer service experience but that seemed wrong. 🙂

There you have it. All the ins and out of my experience. If you made it this far, thank you! If you just scrolled down here to see which one I picked, that’s ok too!

Hello Fresh Couscous Bowl Cristina Nogueras Meal Kit Cooking

Mediterranean Baked Veggie with Couscous, Almonds, and Feta from Hello Fresh

And the winner is…

Blue Apron vs. Hello Fresh Beaches and Brie Cristina Nogueras Comparison

Blue Apron!

At the end of the day, they are both great services and you will likely be fine with either one. For me, however, Blue Apron offers more variety of ingredients and recipes which makes it all more interesting to explore and try new things. I consider myself an average cook so if I am going to use a meal service kit, I want to be able to get something different and more exciting than my usual go-to recipes.

Have you tried Hello Fresh or Blue Apron? What are your thoughts? Do you use another meal kit and love it? Let me know in the comments below!

IMG_2839

Crispy Chicken Tenders & Mashed Potatoes with Butter Lettuce Salad & Ranch Dressing from Blue Apron

How I fell in love with canned fish and other Portuguese tales [Vol. I: Porto]

I want to start this post by apologizing to Portugal.

I must admit, Portugal was our second choice for a trip that for months we had been envisioning as a Greek adventure. I’m pretty sure Brian and I were talking about doing our one year anniversary in Greece when we were still in Thailand for our honeymoon. Disgusting, I know. Timing, flights and curiosity slowly led us to consider Portugal more and more. First it was going to be a second stop in our trip but as we uncovered all the potential we decided we were going to dive in completely and we are so glad we did. (Don’t worry Greece, I’m still coming for you!)

I will be doing a series for every stop we made in Portugal in order to truly make it justice. I will be sharing what we did but also, a lot of recommendations I collected before the trip (and during it) that we were not able to discover.

Let’s start with the wonder that is Porto. Jetlagged as we were and with some time before we could check into our Airbnb, we did not miss a beat and found ourselves having breakfast by theriver. We had no set plans, just a list of choices. What did we do? We propped ourselves outside a local restaurant, drank wine and watched the people walk by. To be fair, we did walk in the church of Saõ Francisco on the way and explored some of its barroque beauty.

Let me tell you, Portuguse wines are so underrated. Maybe it’s because I am not a sommelier but when I hear people rave about European wines, it’s always French, Italian and Spanish wines… but Portugal? Not so much or at all. Sure, we hear all about the wonder that is Porto (the wine) but I was pleasantly surprised to see (and taste) all the different varieties they have to offer.

For our first dinner in Portugal, we went to Wine Quay Bar. This was a place we had seen mentioned in various lists and I really liked that it brought together a lot of Portugal delicacies in a “tapas” style menu. The cheese, meats and olives were superb but oh my goodness… the bacalhau. Not sure how you feel about cod (bacalhau) but I grew up with my grandma’s Puerto Rican “bacalaitos” (cod fritters) and to me cod has always been associated with fried greatness that you should not have too often. Well, Portuguese have been doing it right all these years (sorry, grandma!). The cod we had here was soft and full of so much rich, yet delicate flavor. I don’t think my description can do it justice. 

I knew canned fish was a delicacy in Portugal and I was excited to try it but to be honest, I never expected to fall in love with it like I did. There are currently about 12 cans of different fish varieties in my kitchen. No day feels special enough for us to dig in just yet. Brian wants me to add that he was not a huge fan of the cod but was obsessed with the spicy tuna that they serve (also in a can). The saddest part is that I could not buy the exact cod they had at the restaurant because they ran out. The waitress was telling us about how cod is not as abundant as it used to be. There are issues with over fishing and people respecting sea borders. Really a shame since a lot of people, like them, have grounded their business around cod.

You really can’t go to Porto and not experience a Porto wine tasting. Like I said, we did not have set plans but for this, I recommend you do a little research and look to reserve beforehand. We were lucky to be able to walk in and just get a spot in Cockburn’s Port and had a great experience. First of all, I didn’t know port came in whites! Refreshing to start the tour with a port and tonic, even though I realized once more that I just don’t like tonic.

Did you know that port wine has about 20 % alcohol volume? You feel it. It’s good.

Porto (technically Gaia) houses all the port wines for aging but the grapes are actually harvested in the Douro Valley region. Just like champagne is not champagne if it’s not from Champagne, France – port wine is also only port wine if it comes from this region. Lucky us, Douro Valley was our next stop! More to come on that in an upcoming post.

So yes, this is a Francesinha (missing the fried egg on top). It’s a signature plate in Porto that I feel I have no authority to criticize. Essentially, this plate is available in almost every restaurant that serves Portuguese food but I was being such a brat that I didn’t want to order it if it wasn’t from the places “the internet” said are the best. The way our day ended up flowing, we were not near the famous Cafe Santiago when it was time to eat so Brian convinced me to let it go and just order it where we were. It was alright. Plot twist, we ended up having the best Francesinha in Lisbon from a restaurant with a chef from Porto. I will share more on that when I write about Lisbon!

The whole thing was so silly and has really got me thinking about the way I want to travel. I don’t want to miss out on the good stuff that other people have discovered but I also want to take my own chances and discover for myself  the wonders that are out there. We worry too much about what other’s have lived that sometimes we forget to make adventures of our own.

This was the case for our anniversary dinner. We tried to get reservations in some of the popular places but they were all full. We ended up walking by this small and cozy restaurant that was playing live Fado – exactly what I wanted for such a special evening. I was hesitant to trust our anniversary dinner in a restaurant that was unknown to us but Brian ignited the explorer in me and we went for it. I am so glad he did, as our dinner at Terreirinho Restaurant was the most special dinner of our entire trip. Who would have thought?

And that, my friends, was the view from our AirBnb. It was affordable and with a great location, here’s the link if you are interested!

Here are some other food spots we did not get to try but totally encourage you to consider. If you do end up going to Porto and trying some, let me know what you think!

Any Porto food recommendations you think I should add? Let me know!

You can see more from my Portugal travels on my Instagram. 🙂

[Dinner] Sorellina’s Twist On Some Classics

Finally made it to Sorellina, a nice recently opened spot in Hoboken. Happy to report back that I was not disappointed! It was not too crowded, but then again, temperatures were below freezing so I would still recommend you check out Resy for a reservation, we had no issues.

We started off with some appetizers and if you know me, you know I can’t say “no” to burrata. In addition, we went for the roasted cauliflower and it was absolutely amazing. The charred onions and the breadcrumbs gave it the perfect crunch.

As for the main course, I went for the Cacio e Pepe Conchiglie. It’s not your average Cacio e Pepe as it has milk-braised pork and it features a different type of pasta. Still, I took a chance and it was very good. If you are craving Cacio e Pepe and are 100% set on it, order something else but if you appreciate what makes Cacio e Pepe amazing at the base and are open to exploring something different, go for it!

Brian went with the Bucatini Genovese and he was also very pleased although I must be honest and say he kept trying to eat off my plate. 🙂

Overall, I definitely want to go back and try different plates to keep tasting their unique flavors and fusions.

Have you been yet? Any recommendations?

[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

[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. 🙂

[Lunch] Italian Patio Vibes in Greenwich Village

In the hustle and bustle that can be New York City, I am always delighted to find a little oasis that makes you feel like you’ve traveled elsewhere, even if it’s just for a moment or in this case, a meal. Romagna Ready 2 Go is an authentic Italian restaurant, you can taste their commitment to quality food from your first bite.

Instead of starting with an appetizer, me and my friend decided to split a piadina. It resembles a panini, but it’s not quite the same. The stracchino cheese used was excellent and left me wanting for more.

For the main event, we went with two of the classics: the traditional cannelloni with ricotta and spinach and the lasagna. Both were made with fresh pasta and the combination of ingredients was the perfect culmination to our meal.

Romagna Garden

Just like the food, the space is full of little authentic Italian treasures, like the owner’s grandfather’s racing bicycle straight from Italy. Even if you are not in the mood to stuff your face with fresh Italian food (which if you are not, I’m judging you) the vibe at their outdoor patio is always welcoming and perfect for anything from a business lunch to meeting friends for a drink after work.

 

* Thank you to Romagna Ready 2 Go for a great meal and lovely service. Opinions are my own.*