Posts tagged americanicons

My Autumn Favorites: Dancing Dinosaurs, Steve, Leggings Confessions & More

Friends,

how is it already December? HOW? I wanted to take the opportunity reflect on the past couple of weeks and since it’s getting really cold and wintery around here share my Autumn favorites with you.

#1 Halloween Madness

I had told you that I was living in Halloween Central (read post here), remember? But boy oh boy, I didn’t expect the actual Halloween evening itself to be as big, as fun and as lovely as it turned out to be. Beacon Hill (the neighborhood I live in) has a a bit a reputation of being a rich people’s place (I mean I live a few feet away from John Kerry’s humble aboad, which definitely doesn’t seem too humble).

Also it doesn’t mean we’re living in a fancy city house (the contrary actually, it’s a super old building with radiators making so much noise in every room that it almost seems like they want to communicate with each other (which weirdly also makes me think about the flickering lights in Stranger Things?!!! Are our radiators trying to tell me something? We’ll explore this in my second Autumn favorite later own).

But back to Halloween. I seriously LOVED it. I would never have expected to like it as much as I did. The Boston Police Department closed down a few streets in the neighborhood, which made for a nice opportunity to stroll on the streets and take all the house decorations in as well as indulge in some serious people watching (aka staring. But not in a creepy way) as some reallly went all out. Dogs wearing lion manes, babies dressed up as cute vegetables and fruits and countless little superheroes, princesses and Wonder Womans (that seemed to be a thing this year?) walking around having a great time made it an unforgettable experience. Also, two dinosaurs wearing the same costume finding each other and having a little dance-off was definitely a highlight. You don’t get to see that every day, right?

#2 The Crown

I mean Season 2 is EVEN BETTER I think than Season 1. It’s just bloody brilliant. Watch it!

#3 Stranger Things

Yes, this is not an original input but WOW, how good is season 2 (except for that one weird episode they threw in there, didn’t like that one. You’ll know, which one I mean if you’ve seen it I’m sure). I feel you get to know the characters so much better.

Also, can we talk about Steve for a little bit? I mean his evolution from being a meh character in season 1 to becoming a crucial and positive part of the team in season 2 is just great. And. His hair. How does this even work?!

#4 The Confession Tapes

Another maybe less fun to watch but still so insightful true-crime documentary is the Confession Tapes. You’ll want to watch all the episodes at once as you won’t believe how people get themselves in scary situations where they will say pretty much anything investigators want them to. Seeing the material will make you shudder.

#5 Leggins Addiction

I have to report that the American leggins addiction has gotten a hold on me.

Yap. I am the person that will wear sports leggings now on a weekend day just to go out and run some errands. Will I keep up this habit when I’ll go back to Switzerland over Christmas? I don’t know.

If you happen to run into me on the streets of Zurich wearing my lululemon pants, you’ll know what’s up. Oh and the Black Friday and Cyber Monday and all those bad BAD incentives to make you buy more leggins you don’t really need. Don’t get me started on those.

#6 Thanksgiving Gratitude

I can safely say after about a year in the US and having seen all the American holidays that my favorite holidays by far are Halloween and Thanksgiving. We had a Friendsgiving dinner (thanks Megan!) the weekend before and a more intimate Thanksgiving dinner on the the day of with a good friend and it was just so nice. I love the idea of gratitude and that you get to spend time with family and friends. And the food isn’t too shabby, either.

#7 Korean Sheet Masks

Thanks to my friends Jiwon and Narrae for introducing me to Korean face sheet masks (like the real deal), I see why people everywhere get excited about them, they are AMAZING! If you can get hold of  them, try it for yourself.

Have a lovely day!

Come With Me to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite Valley

Hi friends,

time to look back on one last part of our Californian honeymoon in today’s post. I’ve sadly lost some of the photos of our stay Lake Tahoe and Yosemite Valley but here’s the one’s I had made with my phone. Have a great day!

Staying in an awesome tree house in Oakhurst, near Yosemite Park.
Things learnt during our roadtrip #1 Hammocks = Instant relaxation guaranteed.

Things learned our roadtrip #2 EVERY coffee shop has merch on sale.
Pancakes for breakfast. Because priorities.
Our cute cabin at Camp Richardson on Lake Tahoe
Our cabin
Doing part of the Pacific Crest Trail was on my bucket list. Glad we did it!

The Anti-Cinnamon Roll And Your New Brunch Favorite

Cinnamon rolls are fine. Great even. But sometimes you just gotta try something new, right?

So be cool and go against the cinnamon rolls flow and bring sticky lemon rolls with lemon cream cheese glaze to your next brunch date, people will love it (I think, unless they lied, which I hope they didn’t. No, I thought they were really good, too).

I followed Kitchn’s recipe (great food blog btw) and it turned out great. Only thing I will say is you have to plan ahead to have enough time as the steps where you’re supposed to let the dough rise are quite time-consuming. So top tip, prepare the dough the evening before you want to serve them and  baked the next morning they will be warm when you put them on the breakfast table. The smell of freshly baked goods, not much can beat that, right?

What you’ll need

For the dough:
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope or 1/4 ounce) active yeast
3/4 cup milk (for my European friends this would equal to about 180g)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature for an hour (115g)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup white sugar (50g, I want to add to this point that you might want to add a tiiiiiiny little bit more of sugar as they were – I would’t say healthy – but more on the not so sugary side).
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 lemon, zested
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (630g)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

For the sticky lemon filling:
1 cup sugar (200g)
1 lemon, zested
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/8 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
lemon juice, from 2 lemons

For the lemon cream cheese glaze: 1 lemon, zested and juiced, 4 ounces cream cheese, softened, 1 cup powdered sugar

The dough

Sprinkle the yeast over the warmed milk and let it sit for a few minutes. Stir the softened butter, eggs, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, and 1 cup of the flour into the milk and yeast mixture. Stir in the salt and nutmeg. Stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft yet sticky dough and keep on stirring until the dough is smooth, pliable, and stretchy. Lightly grease the top of the dough with vegetable oil, and turn the dough over so it is coated in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and let the dough rise for 1 hour or until doubled.

The sticky lemon filling

While the dough is rising, rub the lemon zest into the sugar with the tips of your fingers until well combined. Add the butter and beat together until it is thick, whipped, and creamy. Add the ginger and nutmeg, then the lemon juice. It should be a thin yet still creamy mixture of butter and sugar. Refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour, or until you are ready to assemble the rolls. Lightly grease a 13 x 9-inch baking dish (ca. 33 x 48 cm) with baking spray or butter. On a floured surface, pat the risen dough into a large yet still thick rectangle — about 10 x 15 inches (aka 25 x 38 cm).

Spread the dough evenly with the sticky lemon filling. Roll the dough up tightly, starting from the top long end. Stretch and pull the dough taut as you roll, to keep the lemon filling inside. Cut the long dough roll into 12 even rolls and place each in the prepared baking dish. Cover the rolls with a towel and let them rise for 1 hour or until puffy and doubled.

→ You can refrigerate the rolls at this point like I did. Cover the pan tightly with a towel, and place it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to bake the rolls, remove the pan from the fridge, and let them rise for an hour before proceeding with baking.

Yes, I know, It takes time. But it’s so worth it.

Bake the rolls

Heat the oven to 350°F (arrrrrrggghh, those measurements are SO confusing. For my European crowd this means 177°C) and bake the rolls for about 35-45 minutes or until they’re nice and browned.

The glazing extravaganza

While the rolls are baking, you prepare the glaze. Whip the lemon juice and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and blend until smooth and creamy. When the rolls are done, DROWN them with the cream cheese glaze, and sprinkle the reserved lemon zest over top to garnish. Let them cool for a bit but do serve them while still warm. Delicious!

Let me know if you’ve tried it, have a lovely day!

A Surprise Weekend in New York

Friends,

if there’s anything I’d like you to take away from today’s post (and yes, of course it’s to ALSO go and see ‘Book of Mormon’ if you get a chance to) is to surprise someone dear to you every now and then. I got surprised with a weekend trip to New York by the husband for my birthday and it was glorious.

What follows is a little report on our New Yorker adventures, sprinkled with a few tips for new great food places and other spots we’ve discovered this time around (I’ve written a couple of posts about New York over the last months, go check them out here about my NYC Food Guide or here for another food-related post about a trip to New York we took).

Friday, November 10th

All the planning fans amongst you might understand my confusion in regards as to what to pack for a trip to an unknown destination. Philipp would only tell me to pack something for a sports activity, a more dressy outfit and not much more than that. Great. Still, I was very excited. We got up early in the morning, still had a chance to get a few pastries from Tatte for the journey and off we went on the T. We will get on a train somewhere I thought. I kept checking the timetables in the hall and tried to find out more about our destination, which Philipp onlz found slightly annoying. Right about 8.30 am I found out. We were going to…New York!

We arrived at our airbnb early in the afternoon and went on to discover the neighborhood right after. We had a late lunch at the beautiful and hidden away Gotan. It’s a great spot because it has a great menu on offer but still feels more like a café where you can hang out and read a book for hours. As it was freezing cold outside that was basically what we chose to do. All while munching away on a glorious grilled cheese and a chia bowl with lots of coffee.

On our way home we stopped at Le Dépanneur, which is just a beautiful store and deli. I mean. I was looking at jams (yes, jams) for what felt like an eternity. If you’re in the area and a ceramics or perfume lover, definitely stop by Mociun and Le Labo.

Saturday, November 11th

Dogs and Proposals at Central Park

The first surprise activity was a 8am sightseeing run through Central Park. It was freakin’ freezing but a great experience to start our day in this beautiful park alongside what felt a million dogs and their owners. Seriously, I’ve never seen so many dogs (also SO many different dogs) in one day. We went on to see the park’s landmarks, ran by numerous engagement and baby shootings and almost missed a proposal it seems as there were still fresh roses laid out like a heart on the famous Bow Bridge. Overall a great start to the day, even though getting up was hard. We go a hot coffee and a wonderful pumpkin muffin at Rex nearby Central Park as our guide had recommended it afterwards to warm ourselves up again. And he was right, it’s is a great neighborhood spot. Go! We went back home and then went for a proper brunch at Café Mogador. Highly recommend as well if you’re finding yourself near Bedford Avenue. On our way back to Manhattan we ran into the Veteran’s parade.

Best Musical Ever

Definitely the biggest highlight of our trip was seeing Book of Mormon. What a fantastic musical! And hear me out, even if you’re not into musicals I think this’d be the musical you’d LOVE. It was just a memorable experience you’ll love.

Joe’s Pizza and Barcade Fun

If you also ever find yourself on Bedford Avenue (aka Hipster Central) but just want to go for a simple meal, Joe’s Pizza, a New Yorker institution is your best bet. Another great place is the Barcade, it’s basically a playground with beer supply for adults. Great fun!

Sunday, November 12th

We had brunch at Eggshop, which was ok but not more than that I’d say. We then went for a long walk along Bedford Avenue up to Greepoint, which is such a nice neighborhood. We stopped at Peter Pan to get some doughnuts. If you’re ever near Greenpoint definitely visit Peter Pan, it’s a no frills, very down to earth place. And the doughnuts are seriously amazing. And only cost $1 (!!). We devoured them at the Transmitter Park a few steps away while enjoying the great view of the city. New York, you’re truly an amazing and unique city. See you soon!

The Ugly Christmas Sweater Phenomenon

Hello friends,

the holiday season is officially here, holiday parties and gatherings are upon us. What to wear?

What I’ve found out to be really interesting when reading through work holiday party invitations or just by talking to other people around me is that dress codes suggesting wearing something with a holiday flair are quite common. But what does holiday flair exactly mean?

I asked a few Americans (who I figured should know) about what it meant. I heard everything from it being a color scheme containing red, green or silver and gold shades. Or that it meant to simply wear ugly Christmas sweaters.

I might be totally mistaken but I feel like Christmas sweaters aren’t as huge of a thing in continental Europe like they are here in the US (besides Mark Darcy rocking them in the Bridget Jones’ films of course. This man can wear everything and still look sophisticated). But I wanted to know more, where do those ugly Christmas sweaters come from, what’s their story?

Where do Christmas sweaters come from?

Christmas-themed sweaters were first produced on a grand scale in the 1950s, when the Christmas holiday was becoming increasingly commercialized. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the Christmas sweater gained mainstream adoration. This trend has steadily moved upward and as of 2010, ugly Christmas sweaters are once again highly fashionable.

Image via FPG / Getty Images

But why do they have to be ugly?

That’s a difficult one. Doing some research on it online won’t really bring forward a clear response but two arguments seem to keep resurfacing: Nostalgia and an obsession people have with fashion. 

Firstly, ugly Christmas sweaters seem to have that vintage Christmas appeal that reminds us of the days when Christmas meant going to bed early so Santa could bring those presents. Secondly, the ridiculous designs quite likely break every known law of fashion–and that’s the point. To liberate yourself from all fashion conventions is a good thing, so why not? Wear your ugly Christmas sweaters with pride;-) Also, if you want to wear a nice and NOT an ugly sweater it is absolutely fine. YOU DO YOU. 

If you feel like you need a Christmas sweater know, find a bit o inspiration down below to get you started (the ones shown below are all still available on amazon if you fell in love with one specifically):

Do you like to wear Christmas sweaters for the holiday season? If so, what is your favorite one? Let us know in the comments below. Have a great holiday season!

American Icons: The Doughnut

 

Dear America,

you and I. And Homer Simpson. We share one big passion.

It’s round, the most delicious thing EVER and well, the title already gave it away: It’s the doughnut.

Contrary to Zurich where it was practically impossible to get ahold of good artisanal doughnuts (and no, Dunkin Donuts that just recently opened up DOES NOT count), I’m in Doughnut heaven right now. This seems to be THE single thing EVERYONE eats, even fancy restaurants will put it up as a dessert item. I hope you get the point that doughnuts ARE IMPORTANT here (gonna stop with the capital letters in bold now, promise.)

All that interesting stuff about doughnuts (legends incl.)

To not let you go on with your day without knowing a bit more about the background story of this country’s most delicious pastry, find a few facts below.
Also, who knows, you might want to have input for a bit of small talk for upcoming holiday parties, right? A question to get conversations started could be: Why is there a hole in the doughnut? Intriguing, I know. The answer follows shortly.

Apparently, the credit for inventing doughnuts goes to Europe. More specifically to the Netherlands, where oliekoecken (oil cakes or fried cakes) were first made. Dutch pilgrims came to the US and introduced this delicious thing.

The Doughnut Dilemma
However, there was one little problem.  When the olykoeks were pulled from the frying kettle, the centers were rarely fully cooked. One temporary answer to that was to insert a filling that only needed to be warmed.

cropped-cropped-blackbird-pbj-1

Legend has it that a woman in New England back in the 1840s called Elizabeth Gregory was known to make great olykoeks. Part of her secret was to fill the center with nuts. She also had a special name for her creation — dough-nuts. This is an AHA moment, am I right?

Her son was a captain (Captain Hanson), so the good mother she was, she sent him a lot of doughnuts with the recipe of it to make more. This is where the legend gets a bit confusing. In one variation, Captain Hanson’s ship hits a storm and he finds himself having problems steering and holding his doughnut at the same time (on a side note: seems not to be best idea in the first place, but hey, he’s the captain, not me.) He went on to impale the doughnut on one of the spokes on the steering wheel to keep his hands free (what a brilliant solution). This again drove a hole through the raw center of the doughnut, which he liked a lot. Ever since, the legend says, he ordered his cook to prepare all doughnuts with holes in the center.

Another variation of the legend is far less dramatic. The Captain didn’t like the nuts that were in his mother’s recipe and requested that the ship’s cook removed them of the doughnuts centers. Also, with the removed center, the doughnuts cooked more evenly.

You weren’t expecting such a dramatic captains story? Oh the surprises doughnuts bring. 
I could go on and on about the history of the doughnut. Did you know that in the two World Wars doughnuts also played a role? And don’t get me started on Dunkin Donuts. It has been founded in Massachusetts. Quite an interesting story.

After all the talking, I need to go and buy me some doughnuts.

Are you a Swiss person and craving doughnuts right now? I am afraid, you might have to go to Dunkin Donuts. But don’t fear. The ever so great magazine Lucky Peach has made a very helpful chart showing you what to get at DD, if you have to go. Enjoy! powerranking_dd

© Union Square Donuts, BLACKBIRD Doughnuts

American Icons: Dunkin Donuts

So. Massachusetts is known for the Red Sox, the Patriots, notoriously bad (LIKE REALLY bad) drivers, their infamous Boston accents and last but not least Dunkin’ Donuts.

It was time we had a little chat about Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s such an iconic brand from New England. America runs on Dunkin’ also seems to be a pretty accurate statement when you consider there are more than 10,000 Dunkin’ Donuts locations in the U.S. and 60 percent of their annual revenue comes from coffee. Also, can we just take a moment to look at this interesting logo?

Dunkin’ Donuts History in a Nutshell

It all began in 1948 with a donut and coffee restaurant in Quincy, MA called “Open Kettle.” Founder William Rosenberg served donuts for five cents and premium cups of coffee for ten cents. The place was renamed “Dunkin’ Donuts” in 1950.

Since 1950, the number of Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants has increased to more than 12,000 worldwide, with locations in 45 countries making it one of the biggest fast food giants. The company serves approximately 1.9 billion cups of hot and iced coffee every year. Over the long-term, the company plans to more than double its U.S. presence, which will put the total number of restaurants above 17,000.

A Few Things I’m Sure You Didn’t Know About Dunkin’

#1 The company’s executive chef, Stan Frankenthaler, is a three-time James Beard Award nominee (in other words, a real food professional)

#2 Dunkin’ Donuts is all the rage in Korea

The chain’s largest international market is the Korean one with nearly 1,000  stores. Unlike in the US, patrons are allowed to pick donuts themselves off shelves, cups are paper (not Styrofoam), and the most popular drink is a shot of espresso and hot water (called an Americano).

#3 The sizing is pretty unique (aka big)

Compared to their competitors Dunkin’ has pretty unique cup sizing. Their “Medium” is a whopping 24 ounces while their “Small” is 16 ounces. Starbucks’ equivalent of a medium, “Grande,” is 16 ounces and its small (“Tall”) is the standard 8 ounces. Considering that Dunkin’ is still cheaper I know why lots of people choose to go there.

# 4 New York is obsessed with Dunkin’s

The chain has more locations in New York’s five boroughs than Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Papa John’s combined. That’s around 600 stores in NYC alone! Crazy, right?

What to get at Dunkin’ Donuts

Should I add if it’s your only option? Ok that’d be mean but being honest with you, despite walking by a million Dunkin’s every day I might only have stepped a foot into a store one or two times. Still, I’ll go into one this week and will let you know. You know how I feel about doughnuts, so I just might have to give them or their munchkins (mini doughballs) a try. Let me know if you have any recommendations of things you really like at Dunkin’s?

Box of donuts

Have a great day!

On Living In Halloween Central

Hi friends,

it’s going to be Halloween next week and let me tell you one thing:

People here LOVE Halloween.

Tell me something new Sandra you’re thinking. I know. Still, we have to talk about it, since it’s my first time experiencing the whole thing in the US. You can book graveyard ghost tours, pirate harbor cruises or go to Halloween pub crawls. Everyone loves to decorate their houses with weird decorations (I saw tombstones people and dog skeletons wearing sports tricots?!) and spiders and I don’t know…is it just the skeptical European in me that doesn’t really get all the hype around the witches, vampires, pumpkins and weird candy stuff related to Halloween?

Still, I volunteered at the Pumpkin Float at the Boston Common last week and went to a Halloween party (one of the many many this weekend). I’ll admit it, I love seeing all the pumpkins on display out in the streets and I get the fun part about it. Which other holiday allows you to dress up as Princess Leia, Eleven from Stranger Things (whoa, seen the new season?), your favorite M&M, as a mermaid or even your favorite action hero or animal?  I see it, I appreciate the creativity in it. But other than that, Halloween doesn’t really appeal to me (other than maybe the fancy limited candy editions in stores, ha).

Anyhow, as I live in a neighborhood that is famous for its decorations I thought I’d take you along for a little stroll. Apparently, it gets super crowded on October 31st, as everyone comes to see the decorations.

What do you think about Halloween? Do you love it? Let me know in the comments below. If you are celebrating, have a happy Halloween everyone!

Big Sur And Big Seals

Friends,

how are you doing today? I’m coming to you with a roadtrip report today, this time covering beautiful Big Sur. It’s really a special scenery that I enjoyed very much.

What I found even more amazing were the wild seals just lying in the sand. There were SO SO MANY of them. Loved them! Don’t they look like they’re having the time of their lives? Just chilling on the beach. All day. Every day. 

Boston’s Best Bakeries

Friends,

If you know anything about me it’s that I LOVE bread and pastries. Like REALLY. So if I find a place I like I’ll be sure to let everyone know around me. Without further ado, here comes a list of my favorite bakeries in Boston and around.

#1 Sofra Bakery

Don’t miss this one! This place is absolutely worth the trip out of town to Cambridge/Watertown. They have excellent coffee, creative drinks (try the orange blossom lemonade, absolutely stunning), baked goods, and food (all with that delicious Middle Eastern flare). It can get crowded during peak hours as the place isn’t huge, there’s a nice outdoor seating space though, weather permitting. You can also combine a visit to Sofra with a walk around the beautiful Mount Auburn Cemetery.

Photos: Sofra Bakery

#2 Tatte Bakery

This is really boring, I apologize but how could I make a favorite bakeries post without including Tatte? Still just a classic and always a great option to go for, you can’t go wrong with Tatte.

Photos: Tatte Bakery

#3 Clear Flour Bakery

This mini mini tiny tiny bakery tucked away in a sidestreet in Brookline claims to make European bread and pastries. Being the critical European you are you go in with a bit of a skeptical attitude. But you know what? Clear Flour really does make great bread, baguettes, ficelles, croissants and pastries. You got my European stamp of approval. Go folks!

#4 Flour Bakery

Founded by local gastro superstar and Harvard ’91 graduate Joanne Chang this bakery is an option like Tatte where you simply can’t go wrong. Also a great option if you’re out and about with a group of friends as it offers a lot of different options like the best sandwiches I’ve had in town, salads, sweets and coffee.

#5 Hi-Rise Bread Company

We used to live right across a Hi-Rise Bread Company café and it just really is a great neighborhood coffee shop with irresistible pastries, great bread and creative sandwiches. There’s no wifi, which is either a pro or a con depending on what you’re there for but other than that it’s a great quality breads and overall just a nice place for a down to earth breakfast or brunch outing.

#6 Iggy’s Bread

Another amazing local Cambridge hero is Iggy’s Bread. I first got to know about Iggy’s Bread as I was volunteering at a Food Shelter where they always donated fresh bread.  I always ended up volunteering to cut up the bread as it just smelled and looked SO delicious (#truestory). I was curious to find out more and went to their store close to Fresh Pond. It is a great spot for any bread lover! Let me know what you thought!

What are your favorite bakeries in town?

Turning Into a Stunt Woman For Apple Picking

Friends,

what are your favorite fall traditions? I’m currently experiencing my first American fall and have quickly learned that at least here in New England going apple picking is a MUST and has to be done.

Otherwise you’re not doing fall the right way.

Last weekend we decided to rent a car and headed out to the countryside. We went to Connor’s Farm (find more info about it here), which has been around since 1904. It’s basically a farm version of Disneyland, where kids (and adults alike) can indulge in playing all types of games, stroking baby animals, picking apples, shooting apples at targets (yes, that was a thing), eating lots of hot apple cider donuts and finding your way out of a corn maze (and getting lost lots of times on the way….and kind of getting scared that you’ll never get out AND thinking how all those parents let their kids go in on their own). It’s a pretty fun activity, I have to say.

Also, picking apples at the end of the season will have you pull off dangerous stunts (you didn’t know you were capable of) in order to get those last apples hanging (usually on top of the tree…of course). But hey, you have to work to get those apples.

Now we’re stuck with a mountain of delicious apples and I am researching all types of apple related recipes. If you have one you like, be sure to share it!

Have a great day!