A photo dairy of last weekend's wine tasting adventure in Philly at the beautiful Crossing Vineyards & Winery.
Last weekend my dear friends Jackie and Michelle whisked me away on a last minute trip to Philly and I couldn't have been more grateful as the timing couldn't have come at a better time in my life. I rushed home from work at 7pm on Friday night and by 8:20pm, we were in the car on the way to Philly for a weekend of pumpkin picking, good food and wine tasting. For someone who has lived in New York for the past four years, I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that this was actually my first time visiting Pennsylvania. The history and beauty of old town Philadelphia is beautiful and I realize now how much I had missed. The first part of my visit was to Shady Brook Farm in Philadelphia. I did yoga in corn fields, draped myself amongst the deep colours of fall and saw how cauliflower actually grew for the very first time. This was my happy place. I need weekends like this every single weekend.
Last week, I ventured downtown on a Sunday morning for brunch time at Quintessence, an organic raw vegan restaurant in the East Village nestled on E 10th Street between 1st Ave and Ave A. As one of the first vegan restaurants established in New York City, Quintessence has been changing the way New York eats since 1999. With a menu comprising of raw, organic, gluten free and vegan delicacies, Quintessence is every plant-based foodie's dream and an oasis of vegan delights. From cashew milk to ketchup and mustard, everything at the Quintessence Restaurant is handmade from scratch, according to owners Mun and Raw Chef Dan. Ever since founding the restaurant 15 years ago, Mun explains how altering the way she ate changed everything. Her temper changed, the menstrual cycle improved, her energy was lifted.
As far as sustainable dining experiences go in New York City, Quintessence is high up on my list. There's no greenwashing here. Unlike many restaurants offering the occasional one or two organic options on the menu, all the ingredients sourced at Quintessence are 100% organic, vegan and cruelty free.
The ambiance and decor of the newly renovated Quintessence restaurant is wonderful. I particularly love the look and feel of the exposed wall of ivy with kisses of sunflower. What the restaurant lacks in size, they definitely make up in taste and creativity.
Sunday's meeting with Mun and Dan started off with some delicious vegan pumpkin spice lattes made from real pumpkins (unlike Starbucks) and house-made cashew milk. We talked about organic food, recipes, and how the eco-friendly and green movement has contributed to the increasing interest in vegan and organic food. What was meant to be a 30 minute interview turned out to be a two hour conversation.
Dan and Mun believe in the power of eating life foods: "Life Food consists of fruits, vegetables and grains that are never cooked. In fact, nothing is heated above 118ºƒ. By not heating food, all the natural enzymes are left alive and intact. This helps reverses the aging process by providing our bodies with all the enzymes we require to repair cellular damage and to create billions of healthy new cells every day."
Let's move on to the food. Part one of brunch was the Fofu Florentine: two slices of sprouted kamut bread topped with fresh spinach, avocado, tomato, cashew hollandaise sauce and caramelized onions, dusted with black pepper. Quintessence is a pioneer of many vegan inventions. Take "fofu", for example. When asked to define what fofu was, Raw Chef Dan's reply was, "it's tofu without soy." Fofu looks and tastes very much like tofu, but it's actually created with irish moss, cashew nuts and a touch of seasalt. Speaking of cashews, this cashew hollandaise sauce is to die for.
Another interesting piece of information I learned after speaking with Mun and Dan is that apparently they were the inventors of the chia pudding long before it became popular in the mainstream market. According to Raw Chef Dan, when chia seeds first came into the health food market in New York, no one knew what to do with it. People would sprinkle the little chia seeds in dishes, but no one knew to soak it. It was after rounds of trail and errors when the first bowl of chia seed pudding was served at Quintessence. With that said, of course I had to try the original chia pudding. Here it's topped with walnuts, coconut vanilla cream, cinnamon, fresh strawberries and banana. Simply delicious.
For anyone who is interested in learning more about raw food, Chef Dan offers a five day cooking course where you can learn about vegan cooking methods and deepen your understanding of the benefits of eating life foods. For more information, please visit www.rawchefdan.com and do drop by Quintessence to sample some of these delicious goodness.
Photos by Leanne Wei
"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."
Nestled on Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Street lies one of the most prominent and magnificent architectural landmarks in New York City. Take a peek inside the New York Public Library and it will feel like you've stepped into a whole different world as you enter a majestic palace filled with marble interiors, vintage lamps, staircases, phone booths and bright over-sized windows in midtown Manhattan. The details are incredible. No lamp, staircase, carved relief or marble work is overlooked. With its ornate style modeled on French architectural ideas, this is probably considered the greatest Beaux-Arts building and one of the greatest civic ventures in New York. With close to 53 million items, the New York Public Library is the second largest public library in the United States, behind only the Library of Congress. A true People's Palace and a pure architectural delight.
Libraries have always been my personal sanctuary. It's one place I like to have my quiet time and as strange as it sounds, I like to visit the local libraries in every city I visit. I love being surrounded by some of the greatest works in history and having a gateway to an entire network of information. As a lover of art and history, I always draw so much inspiration by looking, appreciating and learning from the past.
When you live in a city as crazy as New York, it always seems like you are short on time. One of the things I'm trying very hard to do right now is to stop always being in a rush. The other is to stop looking back. It's honestly so difficult to do and it will definitely take more than a few tries. But as Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher says, "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." I think that's true in every sense and it's a philosophy we can learn to incorporate in every aspect of our lives. Allow the past to teach you, but do not live in it. The key to that is learning to let go. Be mindful and present. Free yourself of all unnecessary entanglements. Do what makes you happy.
When I first moved to New York about four years ago, I lived in Murray Hill for just over two years where I was literally a three minute walk away from the best thin crust pizza restaurant in New York: Vezzo. Looking back, I didn't realize how lucky I was until I moved away. Now I have to travel 40 minutes to get there. I've been to Vezzo so many times that our waiters already know what we're going to order: my favourite beet and goat cheese salad (simply the BEST), a pear spinach salad and a large chickpotle thin crust pizza (light on the cheese and heavy on the pineapple). When I really want to indulge, we would also order a side of warm garlic bread. At Vezzo, the garlic bread is only served with garlic butter so we would specifically request for some fresh finely chopped garlic on top, which the kitchen staff gladly does most of the time.
I have so many great memories at this cozy little pizzeria on Lexington and 31st Street. The food is always consistent, the staff is great and I love that they serve organic wine. The salads are amazingly fresh, colourful and tossed with just the right amount of dressing. The textures of the pizzas are just the right balance between thin and crispy. Sometimes I wonder how it's possible to get the crust so thin. But the mystery remains and that's why I love it. The dinner of champions, I tell you. Vezzo is my ultimate comfort food zone. I always walk out having a massive food baby, but a very happy food baby. If I had to have a last meal on earth, this would probably be it.
Photos by Leanne Wei
I was going through my archives a couple of weeks ago when I discovered this picture I almost forgot about from a shoot I did last year. The weather didn't exactly go quite as planned that day and we ended up shooting indoors. Despite the not so great lighting, I must say I really love this moment that Chris captured. I'm usually much more drawn to bright, airy lighting but I must say the mood and shadows in this composition really compliment the overall aesthetic of this dress. Here I'm wearing a knit dress by the lovely Heidi Bischoff from her FIT senior knitwear collection. Having had lived with Heidi for the past two years, I've pretty much counted up the hundreds of hours that was spent for this senior collection. This dress is hand knit and hand dyed using a blend of 100% organic cotton and natural fibers. It also took through hours and hours of hard work, blood, sweat and tears.
For anyone who knows me, I have an inexplicable love for chunky knits and sweaters - and an even bigger love for anything handmade. There's just something so unique and special about handmade things that simply cannot be manufactured. Perhaps it's the fact that no two items will ever be the same? In a world of mass production, it's quite rare to find a really special piece of garment that nobody else has. Soft, lightweight and delicate, what I adore about knitwear is the fun and creativity you can exude through colours, yarns and textures. Simply gorgeous and unconventionally beautiful, this is a pretty unique piece that I definitely wouldn't mind keeping if I ever get the chance to borrow it permanently in my wardrobe.
If you've spent as much as 5 minutes talking to me, you'd probably know about my obsession with food, plants and flowers. I love the idea of having fresh organic produce growing in my own garden. In fact, my dream is to (hopefully) have a rooftop garden in New York one day. Yes, I know I can just buy herbs and tomatoes at the supermarket, but the idea of being able to walk outside and pick my own veggies just makes me happy - and happiness we must follow!
I was originally making this herb basket as a wedding gift, but my heart just couldn't part with it so I ended up keeping it for myself (please don't tell). My basket of herby goodness is now sitting happily on my fire escape garden ready for harvest whenever the occasions arise in my kitchen.
This tutorial is very simple. Just follow the direction below and click on the individual pictures to see a larger image.
What you'll need
- A basket
- An old t-shirt/towel
- A bag of potting soil
- A spoon/spade
- Herbs of your choice - I used thyme, dill, basil, parsley, sage and cilantro
- Water, love and sunshine
- Using an old towel or t-shirt, line the inside of your basket.
- Fill the basket half way with soil.
- Take your herbs out of their individual containers, loosen the roots and place them to the basket while covering the remaining half of the basket with potting soil.
- Repeat with all herbs.
- Tuck the edges of the towel and water to set the soil.
Since graduating this past summer, if there's one thing I appreciate more than anything now that I've started working, it's time. Time to eat, time to sleep and most importantly, time to spend in the kitchen. Due to the combination of lack of sleep, exhaustion and poor meal planning, I haven't spend nearly enough time in the kitchen as I should. One thing I am always grateful for, however, is the simplicity of smoothies. Literally speaking, it's as easy as throwing your ingredients in a blender and pressing the start button! It's so tempting to reach for junk when you're hungry, stressed out and have zero time. Luckily for you and me, even amongst the busiest of days, smoothies are here to save us. I whipped this smoothie bowl together in less than 10 minutes. You see? It's easy peasy.
For the smoothie
- One pack of Sambazon açaí smoothie pack
- One cup of almond milk
- Three bananas
- Handful of blackberries
For the toppings
- Dried goji berries
- Sliced raw almonds
- Raw cacao nibs
- Shredded coconut
- Buckwheat groats
- Blend all smoothie ingredients together.
- Pour into a bowl, top with desired toppings.
- Serve and enjoy!
It's been a while since I've updated, but I have a special recipe to share today! Bananas are one of my favourite fruit in the world. I eat about seven of them a day. These guys are packed with tons of vitamins and potassium and you can enjoy them any way you want - fresh, frozen or dried. One of my favourite things to do with bananas (especially the mushy overripe ones) is to peel them and store them in airtight containers in my freezer. This is a great way to ensure you never run out of bananas on hand. For an easy two ingredient nana ice cream snack, just blend frozen bananas with almond milk and you have a bowl of creamy goodness. The consistency is completely up to you whether you want something rich and decadent or light and refreshing. If you have a little more time and are up for something a little more adventurous, try out this recipe for a triple layer nana ice cream jar to tickle your taste buds!
- 1 Sambazon smoothie pack
- 3 frozen bananas
- A handful of mixed berries
- 1/2 cup coconut yogurt
- 2 frozen bananas
- 2 tbsp shredded coconut
- 2 frozen bananas
- 1 kiwi
- 1 tbsp chlorophyll
- A handful of blackberries
- Blend ingredients of each layer separately.
- Layer together in a mason jar and top with blackberries or any fruit of your choice.
- Serve immediately. Enjoy!
This past weekend was Michelle's birthday. As one of my oldest and dearest friends, Michelle and I have known each other since second grade. I can still remember the times when we were running around in pigtails and school uniforms. In fact, she dug up an old class photo of us together the other day. Crazy how time flies. As we celebrated Michelle's 24th birthday, it's amazing how we've known each other for 15 years. As I grow older each year, I have come to appreciate old friends so much more. I think It's important to have people who remember you at various stages of your life. They remind you of where you come from and who you are. From growing up together in Johannesburg in sunny South Africa, I'm beyond grateful for the fact that we both somehow ended up in New York.
As we ventured to Ocean City in Maryland, Michelle's birthday gave me a chance to escape the city. Ever since graduation, I've pretty much dived in head first with the whole job hunting/interviewing process. It's so tedious and frustrating that it makes me so anxious. Dealing with stress is not exactly my forte, but I've learned different ways to deal with it over the years. For anyone who is wondering, my secret is yoga. It's the only time where I can mentally shut off the million thoughts racing through my head and spend an hour focusing on me and my breath. Although this was somewhat of a "party" weekend, I came home with a fresh mindset and a new sense of calm. I think it definitely had something to do with being close to the water. As an Aquarian, there's nothing I quite adore than being close to the sea shores... So smoothing, so calming, so restorative.