Around Town: sketch – London, England

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When in London, one must enjoy afternoon tea. For a very unique (and pink!) experience, try sketch. From the moment you walk into the converted 18th century building, you won’t feel like you’re in London anymore. As you walk through the space, you’ll notice gadgets and art and rooms drastically varying in design.

The room for afternoon tea is the pinkest room you’ll ever see. With pink walls, pink chairs, and framed sketches covering the walls, the entire room glows pink. Even the tea I ordered was pink (though it was a rose tea). All of the dishware have words printed on them, such as ‘Ghost,’ ‘Food,’ ‘It’s Not Okay,’ and ‘Forget About It.’ Even the napkins have phone numbers printed across them. It’s a cute detail that grabs people’s attentions.

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At the end of the meal I ventured up to the restroom to take a look at the space. Multi-colored lights covered the ceiling and each ‘stall’ was a round egg. People were mainly up there just taking photos instead of actually using the bathroom, which was even more bizarre.

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As you leave the pink room, you’ll see this gorgeous Alice-in-Wonderland-esque garden room. Another great setting for lunch and conversation.

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Afternoon tea at sketch is a fun way to spend an hour or two, especially with a group of friends or for a celebration. Dress up in your favorite pink outfit and enjoy fresh tea, champagne, and an assortment of delicious sandwiches, desserts, and scones.

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9 conduit street
London W1S 2XG

Images by Lauren Jessen

Around Town: Mary’s Milk Bar – Edinburgh, Scotland

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There’s no better way to conclude a castle exploration than with creamy, delicious gelato. After roaming around Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh, Scotland, I descended the hundreds of stairs to the historic market place (Grassmarket) where Mary’s Milk Bar welcomes visitors with open doors.

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Mary’s Milk Bar is incredibly cozy and old-fashioned. Milk Bars, which promoted wholesome milky products, were popular in Britain between the 20s and 60s. Mary, who trained at Carpigiani Gelato University, makes sure all of her products are fresh. The chocolate she sells have a shelf life of no more than six months, and each week she offers new gelato flavors.

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I loved the Dark Chocolate gelato. It’s smooth and rich and tastes even better in a crunchy waffle cone. The best part about indulging in gelato at Mary’s Milk Bar? The insane view of Edinburgh Castle (which you can see in the background of the first photo).

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There are only a few tables at Mary’s Milk Bar, so if there isn’t room to sit, take your gelato to go and explore Grassmarket, Edinburgh Castle, and the other many winding streets in Edinburgh. It’s a gorgeous and historic city.

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Mary’s Milk Bar
19 Grassmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2HS, United Kingdom

Images by Lauren Jessen

Around Town: Treat House – New York City

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If you’re a Rice Krispie treat lover, then Treat House will be dessert heaven for you. Inspired by a successful bake sale, the Russell family expanded into a store when their gourmet treats were a huge success. Treat House is a flavorful twist on a childhood favorite treat.

While I normally can’t get enough of good ol’ marshmallow and crisp rice cereal, the flavors here are fun and creative. Whether you’re craving something sweet or savory, there are a variety of options to choose from. With flavors ranging from Birthday Cake to Watermelon to Pina Colada to Cotton Candy to S’mores, there’s something for everyone. An entire store dedicated to sweet rice crisp and marshmallow treats with unique flavors – yum! Visit with a friend and share a few so you can try a bunch of these sweet treats.

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Images by Lauren

Around Town: Russ & Daughters Cafe – New York City

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Russ & Daughters is an appetizing shop in New York that has been run by four generations of the Russ family since 1914. For over 100 years, this shop has sold high quality smoked fish, caviar, and specialty foods. I’ve visited the shop a couple of times, but it’s their cafe, Russ & Daughters Cafe, that I was eager to try.

While the cafe gets busy on the weekend, I made it for a weekday lunch and immediately found a seat at the bar. Set in an airy and spacious environment, Russ & Daughters Cafe is a great place to enjoy a casual meal with friends.

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Bagels, smoked fish, latkes…the menu is filled with so many delicious choices. Matzo Ball soup was an obvious choice to kick off the meal. The Potato Latkes with Applesauce and Sour Cream had my name written all over it, and the The Classic Board with Gaspe Nova Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese, Tomato, Onion, and Capers rounded out the meal. Such a satisfying lunch. High quality in every bite.

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Russ & Daughters Cafe
127 Orchard Street, New York

Image by Lauren

Around Town: The Dutch – New York City

The Dutch has been on my list for a while now, so I was excited to try it for brunch a couple of weekends ago. Located on a tree-lined street in Soho, The Dutch has a dark interior that makes it the right amount of cozy. The space is surprisingly spacious, with an open kitchen and a couple of dining rooms to maintain the right amount of privacy. There are so many great items on the menu – there was a lot of debate happening internally. For a delicious and low-key morning, this place is perfect.

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Start with the Honey Butter Biscuits. They are fluffy, warm, and come with a side of melt-in-your-mouth butter and apricot jam. I still dream about these biscuits.

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For the main meal, it was hard to resist the Banana Waffles with Cashew, Maple Syrup, and Crème Fraîche. The bananas on top of the waffles reminded me of Bananas Foster – always a good thing. The Smoked Salmon and Bagel with Soft Scrambled Eggs and Trout Roe was another item on the menu that was irresistible. The best part about it? Two bagel tops. Genius.

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The Dutch
131 Sullivan Street, New York

Images by Lauren

Around Town: Levain Bakery, New York City

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Whenever I’m on the Upper West Side, I always make a stop at Levain Bakery. Though it’s very popular, I’ve only had to stand in a long line once. I go just for the cookies, but their bread, pastries, and coffee are frequently ordered items. I find myself dreaming about the Chocolate Chip Walnut cookies, and if I’m really in the mood for chocolate, the Double Chocolate Chocolate Chip (pictured above) hits the spot. The latter is a mix between a fudge brownie and cookie.

The cookies are heavy and dense, but incredible. They are crispy on the outside, but soft and doughy on the inside. Though the cookies certainly aren’t inexpensive ($4 each!), they’re huge and are worth every bite. Visit Levain with a sweet tooth and an empty stomach – you won’t regret it.

Levain Bakery
167 West 74th St
New York, NY, 10023

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Images by Lauren

Around Town: RedFarm – New York City

A friend recommended RedFarm to me years ago, but it wasn’t until recently that I made my way there. RedFarm has a variety of delicious plates that are perfect for sharing with a friend or large group. While I prefer shrimp dumplings, pork buns, and hot and sour soup from places known for their dim sum, RedFarm offers a creative and modern take on Chinese food.

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It’s fun to sample a bunch of different items and take what you don’t eat to-go. The dishes I tried included the ‘Pac Man’ Shrimp Dumplings, Wild Rice Noodle with Shredded Duck, Pan-Fried Pork Buns, Soft and Crunchy Vegetable Fried Rice, Hot and Sour Soup with Shrimp, and Thai Basil Lemonade. Cue salivation.

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Images by Lauren

Around Town: Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream, New York City

Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream is a contemporary twist on the traditional ice cream parlor, which is clear in their shop design, delicious ice cream, and the overall vibe of the place. I first enjoyed Morgenstern’s ice cream last month, and when I was in the neighborhood recently, I couldn’t resist going again.

I’ve enjoyed the Chocolate and Cafe Latte so far, but I can’t wait to try some of their other flavors such as Green Tea Pistachio, Black Strap Rum, and Maple Syrup Vanilla. Pro tip: get a couple of flavors with toppings (a few include honey, pickled pineapple, and toasted coconut) in the Monster (waffle) cone for a well-rounded treat. Also, they only take cash.

Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream
2 Rivington Street / NY, NY 10002

Images by Lauren

Around Town: Empire Diner – New York City

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Sometimes there are days when all you want to eat is diner food. This craving hit late one night so I decided to make my way to the iconic Empire Diner in Chelsea for breakfast the next morning. Empire Diner was built in 1946 and was recently renovated to give the restaurant a more modern feel while maintaining its classic look. Empire Diner has been seen in many television shows and movies over the years, including Manhattan, Home Alone 2, Men in Black II, and Law and Order.

Also, today is Star Wars day (May the fourth be with you), and the Galactic Empire is referred to as ‘the Empire,’ so you see how it all comes full circle.

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I love the painted EAT sign above the diner and the retro look with the silver and old-fashioned interior. The space isn’t too big, so it feels cozy and laid back.

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Empire Pop Tarts were an obvious choice, because who can resist homemade pastry puffs with jelly on the inside and icing on top? The flaky edges were perfect for the first bite of the day. The Buttermilk Pancakes were fluffy while maintaining a crispier edge, and the Chilaquiles, though spicy, tasted fresh and was loaded with cilantro. Next time I’m going for lunch and trying the Classic Grilled Cheese with a Cookies ‘n’ Creme milkshake.

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Images by Lauren

Around Town: Clinton Street Baking Company

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On any given weekend, you could be in line for two hours waiting for a table at Clinton St. Baking Company. Go on a weekday, however, and you only have to wait 20 minutes. I kept hearing great things about the pancakes at Clinton St., so I decided to finally try it for myself. The verdict? They are pretty darn good. Fluffy, thick, melt-in-your mouth pancakes, that’s for sure. And the side of warm maple butter doesn’t hurt. Major perk: you can enjoy their pancakes after dark. Breakfast for dinner is a cure-all.

I ordered the Wild Maine Blueberry Pancakes, along with the Country Breakfast. When it comes to breakfast, I enjoy having meat, egg, potatoes, and something that goes well with syrup. This combo was perfect. Add a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice and you’ve got yourself one delightful morning.

Clinton St. Baking Company
4 Clinton Street (btw. East Houston & Stanton)
New York

P.S. If you’re in Seattle, the pancake (yes, singular – a literal pan cake) here is out of this world.

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Images by Lauren