A Chilly Weekend Guide

This happens to be the first weekend of the last many for which I have very minimal plans. Tonight I'll be hitting up my favorite happy hour and then spending the night catching up on Dexter, Survivor, & Fringe on DVR and True Blood On Demand. Since the rest of my weekend is fairly open, I'll be debating between lots of fun events in and outside of Manhattan to keep me busy on this chilly October weekend.

Ulysses' Folk House . 58 Stone Street/98 Pearl Street
I must admit, I had a difficult time finding any Oktoberfest celebrations, let alone a good one. Ulysses' Folk House seems pretty promising. Located on legendary Stone Street, stop by Saturday October 3rd for live oompah music (love), street fun (not sure what this means, but am hoping it involves Lederhosen) and traditional food (beers and brats!). If for nothing else, I highly recommend checking out Ulysses for the fabulous location on the "first paved street in Manhattan".

Chowderfest . Beach Haven . Long Beach Island, NJ
If you're just kind of over New York and longing for some serious Fall-ness, on Sunday October 4th head down the Jersey shore for some chowdah! An annual event officially closing out the Long Beach Island summer, Chowderfest features street vendors, beach store closeout sales, live music and a clam chowder cookoff unlike any other around. One side of the outdoor bayside setup features New England style (that's the white) while the other features Manhattan style (that's the red). Designated by color-coded tents, each chowder style generally boasts 10 local restaurant competitors. You can see the complete list of competitors here. For a general admission of $20 each, sample all the chowdah you can handle and end the day with a vote for your favorite red and white. Winners get bragging rights, so vote carefully.

Starbucks Freebies
Starbucks on: My corner . Your corner . Everyone's corner
Kick off both Saturday and Sunday mornings with free java this weekend.In case you haven't heard, obnoxiously globalized and overrated-for-their-basic-coffee Starbucks has launched a new instant coffee brand called VIA. From today through Monday, stop in your local Starbucks for a free tall VIA coffee. Though I'm more of a pumpkin spice latte/caramel apple cider/salted caramel hot chocolate kind of girl, a free coffee could be enough to get me into the store.

Baked by Melissa Serves Up The Perfect Cupcake For a Sampler

Oreo, peanut butter, marshmallow, mint chocolate, raspberry, devil's food...I don't think it's any secret that one of my favorite New York treats is...drumroll, please...cupcakes. Though I have my favorites, I am constantly in turmoil over flavors. After all, despite constantly being mentioned in my articles and contrary to popular belief, I do not often allow myself to indulge. Since I tend to be a traditionalist (and an earth), I also tend to stick to basic flavors and very rarely veer away from this - despite my desire to taste test. As you may or may not have noticed, I am a sampler. Rarely do I like to commit to a full meal or, in this case a full cupcake flavor, because then I only get to taste just that one. All too often, I'll stick with my usual - chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream (and sprinkles, if available) - but then I don't get to try the many other delectable flavors..making sense?

Luckily, I'm not the only one with this problem. This weekend, I met my sister for some Soho shopping and stumbled upon Baked by Melissa on the corner of Broadway & Spring and suddenly my world of cupcake tasting was turned upside down. What's so special about another bakery selling fresh cupcakes? Well apparently Melissa is a gal after my own heart. After suffering from seemingly the same predicament, she started Baked by Melissa, a teeny window/counter in Soho that sells quarter-sized stuffed cupcakes. With flavors like Peanut Butter & Jelly, S'mores, Mint Chocolate Chip, Cookies & Cream, Cookie Dough, Red Velvet, and Tie Dye (didn't get to this one this time, but it's on my short list for the next trip), each mini cupcake is $1. And the best part? I was somehow able to rationalize this as being guilt-free since they are so teeny. The basic order is 3 for $3 and I ordered the S'mores, PB&J, and Oreo Cookie.

Clockwise from bottom left: S'mores, Oreo Cookie, Peanut Butter & Jelly

Each cupcake was fabulous in it's own right and completely encompassed the essence of said flavor, even in its smallest form. The S'mores featured a chocolate cake with marshmallow filling and topped with a small yet buttery graham cracker. If I sat in front of a campfire with a marshmallow on a stick, it couldn't taste more S'more-like. The Oreo Cookie was chocolate cake stuffed with vanilla cream and topped with a piece of Oreo. I have to say, this had potential to go seriously wrong, but it tasted just like a real Oreo cookie, right down to the super sweet & sugary icing. I saved my projected favorite for last - the Peanut Butter & Jelly. And I must say - it did not disappoint. Yellow cake stuffed with jam and topped with peanut butter frosting...the flavor combination doesn't really get better than this. And if you've found one, please tell me at your earliest convenience.

Bottom Line: For a fab sampling of sweets on the go that won't break your bank or your calorie count, be sure to check out Baked by Melissa's.

Before Oktoberfest, It's Italianfest: Part 1

Italian festivals are in full force this month, from Hoboken to Manhattan. I spent a rainy, yet food-filled night exploring the Hoboken Italian Festival: The Feast of the Madonna Dei Martiri. Located just north of Sinatra Park (a beautiful spot - if you have the means, I highly recommend checking it out), the festival replaced generic streets with local food vendors, live music (of the pop and Italian persuasion), a cannoli eating contest sponsored by 'Cake Boss' Carlo's Bakery, and fireworks.

Though the day was rainy, and it was misting as I used the fancy new Waterfront Walkway to get from my JC digs to the 'boken (see Rants), somehow we managed to not get soaked and my hair stayed in perfect order. As a well-traveled New York festival goer, I have to say that this was significantly smaller than NYC's San Gennaro. But for a rainy Saturday night in Hoboken? I was pretty impressed. Due to the significant quantities of food, husband and I shared just about all of our purchases in the interest of doing the most taste testing without overstuffing ourselves.

Food Consumed:
1 Mozzerella-stuffed Corn Pancake, $4
1 Cheesesteak Sandwich, $7
1 Bottle Dasani
Water, $2.50
1 Bottle Diet Coke, $2.50
1 Beef Patty, $2

1 Beef Shishkabob, $5

1 Banana Nutella Crepe, $5
Total Dinner for 2: $28

Favorite Food of the Night:
Banana Nutella Crepe

So it's not even an Italian food, though I think the Nutella counts. Either way, this won by a landslide.
Close second: Mozzerella-stuffed Corn Pancake

Least Favorite Food of the Night:
Beef Shishkabob

I hate this category and I always hope I can yell 'Nothing! This was all the best food I've ever eaten!' but sadly that is not the case in this instance. A grizzly cut of meat (I'm still not convinced it was even beef) with some bizarre sweet & sour mixture drizzled on it trying to pass for BBQ sauce...it just doesn't make the cut.