Come to think of it, the last three times I've eaten out, I haven't even had to pay. Adriana treated me to dumplings at Rickshaw Dumpling Bar yesterday (out of the three types we ordered, the chicken and duck ones were the best), and on Friday night, after trying to get tickets (unsuccessfully) to The Namesake, my Mom spoiled me with some wine and appetizers at Lil' Frankie's in the East Village. There was baked butternut squash with a bubbly parmesan and nutmeg crust; crisp broccoli tossed with red pepper flakes and olive oil; and a big, fat creamy ball of burrata cheese that our waitress referred to as ridiculous. Everything was better than I expected, and so big that we didn't need to order anything else, but it's the burrata I'm still dreaming about. Literally. The very next night, I dreamt my friend April was pregnant. Turns out that her bump was actually a little ball of that burrata cheese. Bizarre-o, I know. Oh and in case you're wondering, we ended up seeing The Namesake on Sunday. I highly recommend it!
On Saturday, Daniel and I celebrated Kristen's 30th birthday at Girasole on the Upper East Side. She and her family love the cozy, Italian trattoria, and I was able to see why after trying the Insalata Girasole, a house salad with roasted yellow peppers that is best when chopped up in little pieces, and the grilled steak with string beans, carrots and roasted potatoes. It was the fanciest meal we've had this month. Thanks Mr. Herburger!
And while I'm on the topic of Kristen's birthday, now's a good time to tell you about the long weekend she and I recently spent at the New Age Health Spa in Neversink, NY, the first trip we've taken together since traveling throughout Europe our junior year abroad.
Paris was the place where Kristen and I became such good friends. I learned about her love of beauty products and she discovered how I can walk for hours on end. I dragged her through the streets of Paris, and Barcelona, and Rome and all the other cities we visited waxing poetic about the benefits of walking, and she led me through the aisles of Sephora while instructing that there are such things as elbow and leg creams -- and that you should never ever use one for the other. Which is why I knew that a trip to the New Age Health Spa would be the perfect place to celebrate her birthday. Kristen could get mud wrapped all day long and I could downward-dog my heart out.
We slept in a cabin with a sleep-inducing name (Le Nappppeee), ate three healthy meals a day together (with Kristen mourning the absence of pizza at every single one) and read an arsenal of magazines before going to bed at 9pm each night. It was my first time spending more than an hour at a spa but if I ever visit this one again, or if any of you plan on going, here are some words of advice.
1. If you like to torture yourself by giving up sugar whenever lent rolls around (even though you are no longer religious), make sure to NOT visit the New Age Health Spa three days before your sadistic no-sweets ritual begins. I didn't realize until the day before we left that lent would begin the day after we got back, which might explain why it felt completely necessary to pack a bunch of Fat Witch brownies and a huge chunk of the leftover birthday cake that I made for Margherita.
This poor planning did cause us to break one of the spa's most important rules (see sign above), and it also forced us to ruin almost all of our healthy lunches and dinners, but wow, that buttery, chocolate covered chunk that looked downright frightening smooshed inside a tattered piece of tinfoil was so worth it. And confiscating cutlery from the spa's dining hall so we could attack it after every meal made those moments that much more memorable.
2. Plan to visit during the spring, summer or fall. Snowy winter wonderlands are nice, but motivating yourself to wake up at 6:45am for an aerobic outdoor walk that an overly energetic woman told you all about the night before in the mess hall, only to arrive and find out that you're the only one who has shown up because it's BELOW ZERO, is not fun. The cold temps and snow also made it feel like we were at a ski lodge all weekend, without anywhere to ski.
The closest thing was snowshoeing, which I'd never tried and actually liked a lot. And because I didn't pack proper snow shoes, it was the perfect test for my La Canadienne wedge boots which really are completely waterproof.
3. Try to stay three or four days if you can since it takes a little while to get assimilated. Meals are served every day at the same time, and we found it hard to schedule them around workouts and spa treatments. We spent the first day reading magazines and waiting for dinner, we slept through all the morning sessions the next, and found it difficult to not have two-hour naps after lunch. If you stay four or five days, you'll have plenty of time to relax before forcing yourself to wake up early for aerobic walks, yoga classes, pilates, greenhouse tours and lectures on how to stop the chatter in your head.
4. There aren't any TVs or phones in the rooms, so bring lots of books, magazines, games, Mad Libs, your journal or whatever else you might need. Kristen brought all those magazines I mentioned and although at first I wished we had a laptop to watch some Lost episodes on DVD, it was much nicer to get all that extra sleep. And to think we still had so much trouble waking up in the morning!
5. Three meals a day are included in your room rate, so don't miss them! Yes, there will be some scary sounding things such as Potassium Broth, which really just tastes like slightly salted vegetable water, and there are annoying calorie counts listed on almost everything, but all of the greens are grown fresh in the spa's on-site greenhouse, a selection of dressings are made fresh every day, and there's always a really good soup at the beginning of every meal.
Breakfast options were the best in my opinion and included whole wheat breads, peanut butter, oatmeal, fruit, a selection of herbal teas and freshly squeezed orange juice.
For dinner, there was salmon with a vegetable medley, quinoa and an herb sauce the first night, followed by a chicken dish with a small serving of spaghetti and pesto the second, and both included very little, if any salt.
Lunch entrees included baked butternut squash with a spinach orzo which I loved, and a less impressive spinach ricotta tart on our last day.
I consider myself a pretty healthy eater even though I like to indulge on a regular basis. But it was still nice to detox a bit and really load up on proteins, veggies and grains for a few days. Low-cal, fat-free desserts were unsurprisingly disappointing, so it was a good thing we smuggled in all those sweets.
If you need a quick, healthy getaway, check out the New Age Health Spa. You'll have no trouble relaxing, enjoying nature and eating well, and if you bring along one of your closest friends, you're guaranteed to have a great time.