interview with NEIL GREY

Mickey Inspired Apron 
It’s about that time again; the holiday season is upon us. Granted, today is Black Friday, but what if you are not so sure what to get for your bestie, sister or even S.O.? Maybe something a little different will make them smile and the season brighter!

Enter Neil Grey, owner, designer and creator of the Etsy shop, DarkBalloons, home of beautiful hand-crafted items ranging from cosmetic bags to gorgeous aprons. Whether you or the one you’re shopping for is a fan of video games or classic Disney movies, there is most definitely something on her website that is sure to please. High-quality fabrics, unique patterns and vibrant designs set her creations apart.

I was lucky to be able to ask the great mind behind the aprons a few questions. Learn a little bit more about Neil Grey, her aprons and her inspirations, and maybe even her food favorites in our interview.

Why aprons?
I wanted to figure out a way to incorporate cosplay into everyday life. I realized aprons were the answer! Everyone cooks or bakes, and if you're like me, it's such a crappy feeling getting your clothes dirty while you make any kind of food. So not only can you wear my aprons to not get dirty, but to feel like your favorite character!

What inspires your aprons?
Vintage and video games (and animation)! Everyone who knows me knows I'm a huge vintage / antique junkie. So I wanted to put a retro twist to a lot of my aprons but still stay true to the character I'm creating.

Do you take special requests?
Absolutely! During hectic times I tend to not accept custom orders, but when I have time I love to work with customers on what they want.
 Metroid Apron
How are your aprons different from others out there?
The quality and likeness to their characters. I make it a point to never take someone else's idea (it hurts a lot when someone takes your idea). I do heavy research on whatever new character I'm creating to see if someone has done it. And if it has been done, how can I make it really different from the others? For example, I've had many people ask me about making sailor scout aprons, but it's been done so much that there's no point in me adding something like that to my shop. Hence the Luna and Artemis aprons I've created, the kitties from Sailor Moon. I worked with my brother to create their faces and bring them to life in apron form. Those two aprons are very special to me. 

So you make aprons, but do you bake or cook?
Occasionally. I don't cook or bake as much as I'd like. To be honest, I'm really terrified of accidentally poisoning someone, ha! When I do cook, it's normally just for the boyfriend.
 SALE - Pink Power Ranger Apron
If so, what are your favorite things to make?
I'm a huge fan of sandwiches, yet I'm horrible at making them except for these southwestern chicken paninis! They're SO yummy. I also love to make carbonara! I'm a horrible, horrible baker. I don't mess with the science of baking!

Where can we get them?
darkballoons.etsy.com :-) The cut-off date for holiday orders is December 5th!

*Note: All images courtesy of Neil Grey
Princess Tiana Apron Princess Daisy Apron


photo op: FIRE & OAK

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We went all out for our sister sister dinner at Fire & Oak in the Westin in Jersey City. Maybe we were celebrating, but mostly we were having a good time with each other. Dinner was almost secondary to our giggle fits and chatting, fueled by a giant bourbon smash and berry and elderflower martinis. The burrata was not as good as our conversation, and the hefty portions of short ribs and creamy crabmeat and shrimp pasta were dim compared to our smiles.  But the apple pie a la mode finale made the night complete, and filled bellies and hearts till bursting.
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Thanksgiving is almost here! Learn a little bit more about the pilgrims to impress your guests, or take advantage of Thanksgiving hacks and general tips to make the holiday a little easier. What are you doing for Thanksgiving? Making new traditions or sticking to old ones? Would love to hear from you!


late for a very important DATE: BEA Restaurant & Bar

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The Sunday tunnel traffic was atrocious and I was late. Not just a few minutes late, like really late. Late enough that my dinner-date had time to get assigned reading done and slowly sip a cocktail at the bar. Late. 

By the time I arrived, I was mortified, but the back of my great friend’s bent head made everything better. Relief.
I was also pleased that the place she picked for our rendez-vous was stunning. We were meeting in mid-town, so quality can be sparse. But Bea Restaurant & Bar, was kind of exactly what I was hoping for on that chilly night.

The place has real atmosphere— thrown together round tables, white-washed brick walls, dark cushiony booths, Edison bulbs and frames unite, giving off a cool, “hush-hush” speakeasy vibe.  The big central bar displays the booze like it’s art, towering, lit and impressive. Chic Distress.

But we were there to chat, nosh on some fancy eclectic bar food, and have a sip or two. 
A sip or two— the Pisco Sour had an intense citrus tang, biting and aggressive, but was muted by sweet egg whites and cane syrup, while the Paper Fox was spicy and strong, layered with whiskey, lime juice, maraschino liqueur and ginger syrup. Sexy.
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The petite roasted beet salad made arugula attractive, with fat sweet deep-red beets, yellow-orange citrus, and a bright sherry vinaigrette. The sweet was countered with salty pungent blue cheese, spicy red onion slivers and meaty pecans. Harmony.
A thick mound of stringy tender pulled pork toped the flaky partha flatbread, creating a fierce dichotomy of textures, fueled by sweetness and smoke. The red cabbage upped the ante, adding an overwhelming crunch of freshness and pickled tang. Layered.
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Melty cheese and toasty breadcrumbs bonded over elbow pasta, smoldering with guilty pleasures. It was creamy and smooth, thick and enticing. There was just enough flavor to keep coming back for more. Addictive..
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Even though the first pizza was not the one we ordered, when we got our Amatriciana, it was hot and steamy. The cheese stretched and the pancetta crunched, refined just enough. Satisfying.

Lighting, ambiance and totally shareable dishes make Bea a lovely place for a date, even (especially) if you’re a little later than planned. Perfect.
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interview with GIBSON BORELLI

Photo Courtesy of Gibson Borelli
Sure, the pressure to get Thanksgiving just right is pretty intense, but imagine cooking for Guy Fieri and Rachael Ray on national television. That makes Thanksgiving for the fambam sound like a breeze. 

Maybe you couldn’t have done it, but Gibson Borelli, of Hoboken, definitely did and knocked it out of the park! He was the winner of the second season of Food Network’s “Rachael vs. Guy: Kids Cook-Off” this September. On top of that title, Gibson won his own three-episode web series on FoodNetwork.com called “The Jersey Shore Kid, ” which takes viewers on a delicious tour of Jersey and of course, he puts his own spin on Jersey favorites.  Along with doing all those typical 7th grader things, Gibson is giving cooking demos and attending high-profile foodie events around the area.

I got a chance to ask the aspiring chef a few questions about his cooking beginnings and what it’s like to be the champ. See what’s cooking with Gibson in our interview.
Photo Courtesy of Gibson Borelli
How did it feel to win?
It felt a little crazy to win because there were many doubts in my mind that I was going to lose so it was pretty surreal to win.

Tell us a little about the competition?
The competition was a 6 episode series on Food Network. It was hosted by the amazing chefs, Guy Fieri and Rachael Ray. 

How did you come up with your recipes?
I come up with my recipes from what I've eaten, what I've seen, and off of things I have made. 

When did you start cooking?
I started cooking when I was 7 when I made my first batch of cookies. Things led from there and I am making anything you could imagine. 
Gibson and Chef Alex Guarnaschelli--Photo Courtesy of Gibson Borelli
What or Who is your inspiration?
My inspiration was Guy Fieri, all Food Network chefs, and just chefs I have met/seen in my life. 

What is your favorite thing to make? Or things?
My favorite thing to cook is my burgers. I think of burgers as a blank canvas, and I can put anything on them. So it's a great thing to make!

Any tips to aspiring chefs or kids (or adults) who want to do more and better in the kitchen?
One tip I have for aspiring chefs is to experiment. Don't make the same things twice. Sure, you might want to work on the recipe, but write down what you did wrong, and in your next dish make sure you don't make the same mistakes again. Another tip is to have fun with what you are doing. If you don't like what you are doing, switch it up!

What happens next?
What happens next? Secrets, so stay tuned!

Can’t wait to see what he’s up to next? Follow @ChefGibsonB for more of Gibson’s food adventures!
Photo Courtesy of Gibson Borelli


photo op: BAREBURGER

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Nothing like a big hunk of meat on a soft bun to solve all of your problems. Bareburger in Hoboken was the spot of choice to drown our sorrows and share our happiness over fat onion rings and spiced fries with a myriad of delicious sauces. The Grindhouse burger with an egg (extra) eased my pounding head and the Wiki Wiki tickled those sweet and spicy notes. The amazingly delicious and addictive Snickerdoodle Samme made all my problems go away. Bareburger ended up being the perfect place for a lunch date where we dished on life and observations. Gah, so yummy!
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See my past Bareburger experience here and here!  Don’t forget to follow on facebook, instagram, twitter, and yelp to keep up with all the food adventures.
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MangiaMore: APPLE cinnamon white cake

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Somehow apples always seem to get abandoned in my boyfriend’s fridge. He knows I love apples (they say an apple a day keeps the doctor away) so he buys me some and then they sit. He likes to get me my favorite varieties, so that means sometimes there’s a few Honeycrisp waiting for me or a plastic bag with gala apples inside. We like to pretend we use them for whole bunch of things, but in the end, those autumn jewels wait patiently in the refrigerator until their time is almost up.
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This time we had three pretty bright red and yellow green gala apples aging and getting tired. We were supposed to make something with them this weekend, something delicious to celebrate Fall. I gave up baking over the weekend but found the recipe I wanted (I was literally ready to eat it, just not too enthused to make it).  So, on Monday afternoon I got to work and ended up with this Apple Cinnamon White Cake.
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The extremely easy recipe involved layering delicious vanilla intensive batter with fresh chopped apple(s) and the spicy sweet mixture of cinnamon and brown sugar. Easy as 1-2-3. The loaf cake is like a coffee cake with brown sugar and cinnamon crunchy and crumbly on its crown and a multitude of soft and tangy sweet apples inside. Despite having no spices in the cake, there is a lovely swirl of cinnamon throughout, making this a great autumn breakfast, especially with the apples. It’s buttery, spicy, fruity, fall-like and above all, super yum.
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What do you do when you have extra apples? 'Tis the season for apples, most def! Would love to hear about your favorite fall apple recipes!
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