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October 20, 2017 |

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Smiling Moose Opens New Location in Grand Forks

Denver-based Smiling Moose Rocky Mountain Deli is celebrating its newest location in Grand Forks, North Dakota, which opened on October 16. Located at the corner of Demers Avenue Washington Street, this will be the fifth location in North Dakota. Smiling Moose, a fresh, fast-casual franchise, is known for their award-winning sandwiches, like the Original Mo!, a unique twist on New York’s classic ‘chopped cheese’ sandwich.

With four other North Dakota locations, this new Smiling Moose restaurant will provide Grand Forks residents with a bold flavor experience complete with hearty portions that are made-to-order using premium house-made ingredients. Guests can enjoy handcrafted assortments that range from irresistibly messy hot sandwiches (served with a fork), custom-chopped salads and mouthwatering cold sandwiches, savory soups, wraps and fresh baked cookies … not to mention, piping hot breakfast sandwiches and skillets are served all day, every day. Smiling Moose is proud to feature adventurous house-made sauces, like their zesty lemon pesto aioli and signature cranberry chipotle mayo.

Owners Nathan Everson and Liza McLean, both North Dakota natives, have established their “Moose Herd” throughout Williston, Watford City, Fargo and Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and are thrilled to have brought the Smiling Moose experience to Grand Forks. According to Everson, “Grand Forks is the perfect location for the Moose because of its flourishing population of hard-working, fun-loving, outdoor enthusiasts who will fall in love with our unique and flavorful food that is as adventurous as they are!” Smiling Moose president, Rich Eisenberg, boasts that Everson and McLean are ideal world-class operators for the Smiling Moose Brand.

He went on to says, “Both Nate and Liza have established an excellent management team focused on ensuring that every guest has a true “Moose” experience that leaves them smiling. They are an excellent example of the type of multi-unit Franchisees we are looking for as we begin our expansive growth throughout the country. We couldn’t be more excited to have yet another great location open in North Dakota.”

Along with the core menu items, Smiling Moose offers flavorful vegetarian and gluten-friendly options to fulfill every guest’s dietary needs and taste preferences, as well as a variety of kids’ meal options. Guests can also skip the line by ordering on their phone using the popular Smiling Moose app. In addition, Grand Forks’ businesses will be thrilled with customizable catering options covering breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as large off-site events. Be warned, the Moose is on the loose in Grand Forks.

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The Key 3: Gail Simmons

For more than 10 years, Gail Simmons has decided the fate of hopeful chefs from all over the country as a judge on the show, Top Chef. She’s also the author of the new cookbook, Bringing It Home. We asked Simmons to be part of our Key 3 series, in which we ask chefs, food writers, and celebrities to tell us about their three most go-to. She told us about two of her favorites, chicken wings and butterscotch pudding. Then she invited Francis Lam into the kitchen to make her Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich. In addition, Simmons shared her recipes for two unique desserts: Banana-Cardamom Upside-Down Cake with Salty Caramel and Black-Licorice Chocolate Bundt Cake.

Francis Lam: You have eaten everywhere. Chefs fall over themselves to impress you on a daily basis. The question is what do you cook at home for yourself?

Gail Simmons: I get this question a lot. The question usually starts as, “Do you cook at home?” Because people who specifically watch me on Top Chef always see me in a certain way. It is me, but it’s a curated and edited version of me. I’m often in full hair and makeup and a cocktail dress, so they don’t know if I actually cook or if I just sit and eat and judge people.

What people don’t know is my career and love of food began by cooking, not just eating at fancy restaurants. I spend a lot of time cooking at home. Now that I have a job that requires me to travel and eat out a lot, I find – especially as I get older and now that I have a child – that my food at home is much simpler. There’s not a lot of time at the end of the day. And when I’ve also been working and eating a lot of heavy food during the week, I want to come home and eat simple, delicious, fresh food.

FL: Lots of things you don’t have to think too hard about.

GS: That’s it.

Gail Simmons (Photo: Shay Paresh)

FL: Tell us about some of those. Let’s say, three of them.

GS: I’ve been thinking a lot about this; there are many. But there are three things that, in my head, are my go-to, that deeply satisfy me, that I love to make. They are chicken wings —

FL: You are my best friend.

GS: Thank you. I’ve always loved a chicken wing. Also, butterscotch pudding. And a perfect fried egg sandwich.

FL: These are solid choices.

GS: They are not necessarily everyday recipes; you’re not going to eat butterscotch pudding and chicken wings every day of the week. But they are great things to know how to make for entertaining or for pleasing yourself. They’re three of my favorite things to cook.

1. Chicken Wings

FL: Talk to me about the chicken wings.

Gail Simmons: Growing up in Toronto, there was a place from as far back as I can remember, probably middle school, where my friends and I always went for chicken wings. It was a little hole-in-the-wall dive bar, but they made the best, spiciest chicken wings. Crispy fried wings, with an incredible, dilly, ranchy sauce to go alongside it. I’ve never been able to replicate those wings, but it has been a quest for me to do so ever since. In the process, I have found other ways to make wings that I love; they’re certainly not that classic Buffalo-style. To me, there’s nothing more satisfying, decadent, silly and tasty, because it hits all the points. There’s the fat, salt, and the heat.

2. Butterscotch Pudding

FL: Can I confess something to you?

GS: Yes.

FL: There is a microphone on me right now, but it’s our private moment.

GS: Understood. Just between us.

LF: I don’t know what butterscotch is. What is butterscotch?

GS: It is a funny thing because this is the road I went down. I’ve always loved butterscotch pudding. When anyone would ask me in an interview, “What would be your final meal?” I always say butterscotch pudding would be the dessert. It is the most luxurious, texturally perfect, rich, creamy, caramel-y dessert ever. You don’t see it that often, but all of a sudden it’s starting to make a comeback in fancier forms like the budino or the pots de creme. Butterscotch pudding, in its simplest sort of childhood lunch memory, is what I love the most.

I decided when I wrote this cookbook that I needed to have a butterscotch pudding, but realized I had never made butterscotch pudding. So, I set about to do so. The first thing was exactly that – realizing what the hell is butterscotch? Where does it come from? My original belief was that it is probably two things: butter and scotch. It would make sense that it would be in the recipe. I had to go down a deep rabbit hole. There’s very little on the internet about this, surprisingly – or just not enough – and it’s very gray about what butterscotch is.

Apparently, the scotch part of it comes from what possibly could be a word for scorch, because you scorch the butter a bit; you brown the butter with sugar in the process of making it – to caramelize it. That’s the best I could find for what butterscotch is. Butterscotch pudding is a traditional custard made from caramelized butter and sugar. I like to use brown sugar because it has such a deep flavor, tempered with milk and cream. Then I decided, “I’m definitely putting in scotch!” Some recipes do that. I’m an adult. And I like scotch. So, I’m going to add scotch! My version has scotch, but if you want to make it kid-friendly, you could certainly leave the scotch out. As long as you get a deep enough brown butter caramel, it’s still going to taste fantastic.

FL: Mystery solved.

GS: There you go.

Francis Lam and Gail Simmons in the kitchen preparing Gail’s Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich. (Photo: Shay Paresh)

3. Fried Egg Sandwich

FL: The third thing you said is a killer breakfast sandwich.

GS: Yes. Let’s go make one.

FL: Let’s go to the kitchen.

Francis and Gail step into the kitchen complete with a full spread of ingredients for the fried egg sandwich: eggs, tomato, lettuce, mustard, and more.

FL: We’re down in the kitchen, and we’re going to make your ultimate breakfast sandwich.

GS: I’m excited about it. The first thing about a breakfast sandwich is the egg has to be cooked well. By “well” I don’t mean “well done.” I mean so that the yolk is still runny but not raw; the white is firm. Most people don’t know how to cook a fried egg very well.

FL: It’s tough.

GS: They overcook it or they undercook it. That’s the most important part of an egg sandwich. But there are other components that make it delicious. Like sharp cheddar cheese. I’ll take American cheese once in a while because we all have our dirty little secrets. And a beautiful ripe tomato.

There are a few other things that I love on my sandwich that I think make it a little bit different and even more delicious. I always put pickles on my fried egg sandwich; that acid is just so killer. I like to use chilies. In this case, I’m using peppadews, which are a South African pepper. They’re mildly spicy and pickled. And mustard, which is my number-one favorite condiment of all time. I put mustard on almost everything that it is not embarrassing to have mustard on, and even some things that are embarrassing to put mustard on. I believe mustard makes most things taste better, so there’s always mustard on my egg sandwich. Altogether, you have acid, acid, heat, fatty cheese, beautiful juicy tomato – also with a little bit of acid to it – and the perfect egg. And some lettuce.

FL: I have to say, you come from the hamburger school of breakfast sandwiches.

GS: The exact same method would make a great hamburger.

The first thing I’m going to do is put mayonnaise on four pieces of rye bread. I like rye because it adds a little flavor. You want every element to have a purpose. I put it on one side, but this is actually going to be the outside of the sandwich. This is the expert grilled cheese school as well, because mayonnaise will help it get golden and tasty.

I’m going to put a little butter in the pan. I’m using a nonstick skillet here. I don’t recommend nonstick skillets for all cooking, but for cooking eggs it really does help. I’m using a big nonstick skillet. That’s another important thing. You never want a pan that’s too small. Then things get crowded and they start to steam. Move that butter around a little bit, melt it, make sure that it’s evenly distributed. Now, make your egg. This might come as a surprise to people, but how I like to make my sandwich is that I make my egg separately, put it aside, make the sandwich, and then I put the egg in the middle right before serving it.

Now that’s a perfect fried egg sandwhich! (Photo: Shay Paresh)

FL: You like to put the cover on the pan?

GS: I don’t always put a lid over my pan when I’m cooking eggs, but when you do put the lid on, it tends to trap the heat in and steam it a little more. It’ll cook things more quickly, but don’t blast the heat. You have to be gentle with your eggs.

I do believe this is the perfect hangover food. The inspiration for this particular recipe – with mustard and pickles – comes from my college years. I went to school in Montreal at McGill University, and I was vegetarian for a few years – I don’t tell a lot of people that. There was a burger place in Montreal, I think it’s still around but I’m not sure. They made the most amazing burgers. But, because I didn’t eat meat, I could never enjoy them. However, they had an egg sandwich on the menu that, once I ordered it, I craved all the time because it had pickles in it. That was the first time I’d had an egg sandwich with pickles, and have been eating it that way ever since.

I’m just taking my eggs gingerly out of the pan. You don’t want to break that yolk.

FL: It’s a high wire act.

GS: I’m setting those buttery eggs aside.

FL: They are beautiful. Very buttery looking.

GS: Use a little salt.

FL: You season after they’re done?

GS: Yes. Then I’m going to add the rest of the butter into the pan, start toasting up my bread, and put the sandwich together. I’m toasting the bread in the butter, mayonnaise-side down. Once this starts to toast, I’m going to spread mustard on the inside of the bread while it’s inside the pan.

FL: This is a mustard lover’s amount of mustard.

GS: I mean, look, you can moderate, but I’m giving you the best version of myself, Francis! [laughs] I’m turning down this flame just a hair. And then I’m going to add peppadews.

FL: These are beautiful, dainty, ripe red peppers.

GS: And they have so much flavor. For one sandwich, I use about five peppadews cut in half.

FL: If you don’t have peppadews, any kind of pickled pepper will do?

GS: Absolutely. Obviously, this is all optional, but I’m telling you what would make it the best.

Now, I’m putting in that cheddar, and I’m going to moderate it to the size of the bread. Let that start to melt a little bit. When it just starts to warm up the cheese, I’m going to add pickles, tomato, and a bit of hot sauce.

FL: I love it. Now, you flip the sandwiches, so the new mayonnaise-sided bread goes on the downside.

GS: Exactly. At the very end, you put on your lettuce and egg. There we go; I’m pulling them off.

FL: Very nice.

GS: The side without cheese will be easier to open so you can carefully put in your eggs. Top with a piece of lettuce. Don’t squish it down too much, although the egg may pop when I slice in. You want to be a careful when you slice, but get in there.

FL: That is a pretty sandwich. And it’s good! I 100-percent feel the pickles in this. Thank you so much for the sandwich that’s now running down my face.

GS: That’s the point. It wouldn’t be the ultimate breakfast sandwich if it wasn’t.

Someone’s ready to eat! (Photo: Shay Paresh)

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Aldi launch new wooden toy range for Christmas

If you don’t want to buy your child a Christmas present with a screen this year, Aldi has just the answer.

The retailer describes it’s latest range of toys as a ‘nostalgic collection of great-value wooden toys’ and the range includes everything from a classic dolls house to a theatre.

It has also jumped on the back of the unicorn craze by selling a trendy wooden rocking unicorn, priced £27.99 and billed as ‘a modern twist on the original’, reports the Manchester Evening News.

Suitable for ages two and over it comes with its own sound effects by squeezing the ear.

Prices start from £9.99 for kitchen sets and accessories, up to £79.99 for the premium wooden kitchen.

The playshop and theatre (£34.99), offers two great role plays in one.

On one side, the play shop features two shelves with storage trays to show off produce, including a starter set of three fruits and three vegetables.

Aspiring grocers can use the mini blackboard to showcase their prices and promotions.

On the other side is a theatre featuring a red stage curtain and a large blackboard, perfect for listing their plays and performances.

The quality FSC certified wooden toy line-up will be in stores and online from Thursday, October 26 as part of the Aldi special buys offers, but customers are be able to pre-order from Thursday, October 19.

Other items in the range include:

Wooden Rocking Horse (£27.99)

Wooden Doll’s House (£29.99)

Large Wooden Kitchen (£29.99)

Kitchen Sets and Accessories (from £9.99 – £12.99)

Wooden Railway (£14.99) and Road Sets (£14.99)

Wooden Work Bench and Tools (£34.99)

Wooden Playshop/Theatre (£34.99)

Large Wooden Kitchen (£29.99), available in grey or pink

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Buyer’s Guide: Nonstick Cookware

Best Nonstick Cookware Options


Practical nonstick cookware is popular with kitchen newbies and experienced chefs alike. After all, cooking with coated vessels can prevent foods from sticking to surfaces, saving meals from ruin. What’s more, nonstick cookware often requires less (or even no) oil, resulting in lower-fat fare. Like its traditional counterparts, nonstick cookware can range widely in price, from $50 to $500, depending largely on the cachet of the manufacturer. Here’s your opportunity to learn what you need to know about nonstick pots and pans so you can pick up the best nonstick cookware set for your particular cooking style, space, and skills—not to mention your budget.

Coating Concerns
Food slides easily from cookware surfaces thanks to one of two types of coating: classic or ceramic. Classic, officially known as PTFE (for polytetrafluoroethylene), was first made popular when the brand name Teflon first hit the market in the 1960s. Ceramic coatings are made with ceramic nanotechnology—a fancy way of saying “very small particles”—and are considered the more environmentally friendly choice. While PTFE tends to last longer than ceramic, the Environmental Protection Agency has found a potential health risk in overheating PTFE-coated pots and pans. At temperatures around 500 degrees, PTFE can release fumes that are likely carcinogenic, so those who cook at high temps may wish to opt for ceramic. Unfortunately, ceramic coated cookware doesn’t hold up as well as PTFE and may need to be replaced within a few years after frequent use.

Appliance Applications
Remember, you don’t just cook in your cookware—you also reheat in it and wash it as well. So it’s essential to consider if a set is safe for the dishwasher and/or microwave. While Teflon itself is microwave safe, PTFE cookware is generally made of metals—and metal, of course, should never be placed in a microwave, where it’s likely to explode. Some ceramic cookware is microwave-safe, but pieces with any metallic compounds are not to be nuked.

When it comes to cleaning, many (not all) nonstick cookware brands claim their products are dishwasher safe. Just remember that the higher the temperature, the faster a nonstick coating will degrade. So to prolong the life of your nonstick cookware, consider washing it by hand no matter what the manufacturer says. Ask the salesperson to steer you towards the right cookware for your reheating and washing methods, and always check the label on the cookware itself.

To avoid scratching nonstick cookware, skip metal spoons and spatulas and use wood, silicone, or nylon instead. Fortunately, some nonstick cookware sets throw in an assortment of utensils as part of the deal.

Size Matters
Finally, as with any set of cookware, think about how many pieces you need. Ask yourself the following: How much cooking do you usually do? Are you making meals for small or large groups? What will your kitchen storage accommodate? If you occasionally prepare dinner for yourself and your partner, an eight-piece set that includes various sizes of saucepans, skillets, and a large soup pot might suit you fine. If you serve up multiple meals per week for a large family, however, larger set with up to 15 pieces offers more flexibility and range.

3 Hot Options

To help you find the best nonstick cookware for your kitchen, we’ve picked a few favorites based on the considerations outlined above and critical reviews on the top shopping sites.

Best Nonstick Cookware - Cuisinart Chef's Classic Non-Stick 17-Piece Set


Cuisinart 66-17N Classic Nonstick Anodized Cookware Set ($199) 
This extensive but not expensive 17-piece set of classic nonstick aluminum cookware is popular with Amazon shoppers. It’s especially suited for fat-free cooks, thanks to a surface that’s anodized (toughened up with a protective oxide layer) and reinforced with titanium, meaning no oil is ever needed to keep food from sticking. Safe in dishwashers and oven temperatures up to 500 degrees (lids are safe up to 350 degrees), this sleek black set also boasts stay-cool handles. It’s metal, so not nuke-friendly, but the manufacturer claims it’s dishwasher safe. Available on Amazon.


Best Nonstick Cookware - T-Fal's 12-Piece Signature Aluminum Cookware Set


T-Fal Signature Aluminum Cookware Set ($64)
This 12-piece classic aluminum set—a favorite of Lowe’s shoppers—hits the sweet spot of not too few, not too many pieces. The budget-friendly set is perfect for folks with small kitchens, with just six vessels: two saucepans, two frying pans, a griddle, a Dutch oven, with corresponding lids and tools. It also comes with a slotted spoon, spatula, and ladle. A built-in heat indicator in the center of each piece helps prevent undercooking or overheating, which can extend the life of the set when kept under 350 degrees, where it’s both oven and dishwasher safe (but a microwave no-no). Available at Lowe’s.


Best Nonstick Cookware - WearEver 15-Piece Pure Living Nonstick Ceramic


WearEver Pure Living Nonstick Ceramic Cookware Set ($144)
Named the best ceramic cookware set of 2017 by professional reviewers at The Spruce, this ceramic-coated 15-piece set boasts nine vessels and six lids, with saucepans, fry pans, a soup pot, a griddle, and more. Safe in the dishwasher and the oven if kept under 350 degrees, it’s made of aluminum, so not microwave-friendly. Less heat-sensitive than its PTFE counterparts, the set can withstand cooking temperatures of up to 700 degrees, so low-level flambéing isn’t out of the question. Bring on the coq au vin and bananas foster! Available on Amazon.

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6 things you might not have known about your KitchenAid stand mixer

Fun facts about the nearly 100-year-old appliance

October 20, 2017Comments

KitchenAid blender

Photograph courtesy of ACP/Trunk Archive

The iconic KitchenAid stand mixer, introduced in 1919, is the single most popular item on bridal registries. Here are some fun facts about the beloved appliance.

  1. The first countertop KitchenAid mixers cost nearly $200 (almost $3,000 in today’s dollars) and weighed 65 pounds. However, industrial designer Egmont Arens (who was also the art editor of Vanity Fair) created the streamlined bullet silhouette in 1937.
  2. The story of the brand name is a well-known legend: While wives of company executives were testing early mixers, one of the women exclaimed, “I don’t know what you call it, but it’s the best kitchen aid I’ve ever had.”
  3. Last year, for the first time since 1962, the company introduced a downsized version. The new 3.5-quart mixer is 20 percent smaller and 25 percent lighter than standard models. It can handle dough for up to five dozen cookies, versus eight to 12 dozen in the larger mixers.
  4. The mixer now comes in more than 86 colors. Among the newest finishes are matte Avocado Cream, Black Violet, Ink Blue, and Milkshake.
  5. Accessories that have been discontinued include a can opener, knife sharpener, pea sheller, and silver polisher. However, old attachments still work with today’s mixer, should you encounter tarnished flatware.
  6. Novel attachments include vegetable slicers, ice cream makers, grain mills, and pasta rollers.

This article originally appeared in our Fall 2017 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

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Meet The Savory Skillet Pancake That’s Here To Save The Weekend

Dutch Baby Pancake (John Condon)

Explore the sweet and savory sides of the Dutch Baby Pancake with two newbies on the brunch menu at Left Bank in the West Village. Chef Laurence Edelman has created both a sweet and a savory addition to the menu, starting with the apples and pears, lemon, butter, and maple syrup option ($16) and continuing with a different one made with rosemary ham, béchamel, and gruyère cheese ($17). Both are served out of the cast iron skillets in which they are cooked.

We are now serving brunch Saturday and Sunday. And yes, there are chocolate and hazelnut sticky buns.

A post shared by Café Altro Paradiso (@altroparadiso) on Oct 14, 2017 at 10:50am PDT

Cafe Altro Paradiso in SoHo has debuted their brunch program for weekend dining between the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. The large brunch menu includes sweet options like the sticky bun with hazelnut and chocolate ($8) pictured above or a waffle with apple compote, walnuts, maple syrup and crème fraîche ($14). On the savory side, Eggs alla’Amatriciana with tomato with pancetta and focaccia ($18) and even pastas like the malfatti cacio e pepe with preserved black truffles ($24). Their version of the bloody mary is the Amatriciana Mary, made with vodka, tomato, Calabrian chili, black pepper and fish sauce ($16).

Enter soup season by sampling a selection from restaurants on Smith Street at the Smith Street Soup Festival unfolding Saturday from 1 – 4 p.m. Thrown by the South Brooklyn Local Development Corporation, the event is both a fundraiser for the High School of International Studies Culinary Arts Program and also an awareness campaign to “[buck] the hype that Smith street’s Restaurant Row is waning.” Bar Tabac, Stinky Bklyn, Kittery, Fawkner, and other local spots will be participating; buy five tasting for $7 or 12 tastings for $15, with tickets sold at the corners of Bergen, Butler and Union.

Reward yourself for running a 5K with unlimited beers at the The Brew Hop 5k + Craft Beer Festival this Saturday on Randall’s Island Park. Check-in starts at 10 a.m. and the race kicks off at noon, after which runners congregate for a beer festival with local breweries opening their taps for as many beers as you care to drink. Tickets for the race plus beer are around $80, with entry only into the beer festival around $65; get them here.

(Scott Lynch/Gothamist)

With temps creeping back into the upper 70s this weekend, why not harken back to summer by sampling the new chocolate-themed ice cream menu at Lower East Side ice cream shop Ice Vice? The ice creams, all crafted using one of Belgian chocolatier Callebaut’s creations, come in flavors like the PSL (pecan, sorghum and latte toffee with arriba single origin 30%), WWW (white chocolate, white-miso and whit beer with velvet white 33.1%) and TBT (earl grey, dark chocolate and speculoos chip with Brazil single origin 66.8%). But Quick Bites columnist Scott Lynch says the “surprise winner” is the SML, a salted licorice and skyr-chocolate chip creation using ice chocolate 40.7%.

On Saturday, the Seaport neighborhood throws its annual Taste of the Seaport event, which, like other “Taste” events, means wandering between tents to grab snacks from local restaurants and bars. The event is free to attend, however one must procure tickets for “tastes,” which can be redeemed at any of the stands set up around the cobblestoned pedestrian streets. Trading Post, Felice, Da Claudio, Big Gay Ice Cream, Blue Ribbon Federal Grill, Keste Pizza, and Westville and others are slated for the event; purchase taste tickets ($35 – $125) here.

Meet Mario Batali and support Topos México and Unidos Por Puerto Rico on Sunday at the Family Meal Benefit for Mexico Puerto Rico at Batali’s La Sirena in Chelsea. The chef’s Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, Becco, Casa Mono, Del Posto Ristorante, Esca, Lupa Osteria Romana, La Sirena, OTTO Enoteca e Pizzeria and Tapas Bar at La Sirena restaurants will be supplying tastings to attendees from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. following a meet-and-greet with the chef (for VIP ticket holders) from noon until 1 p.m. Tickets are $50 for general admission and $250 for VIP; alcohol is included in the VIP ticket but sold separately for GA.

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Simple Living Inspo: How I Decluttered 500 Things In A Month

By the time I turned 24, I had a well-established reputation among family and friends as the guy who never remembered where he left his keys. And by the time I found them, I was at least 20 minutes late to wherever it was I was supposed to be going.

At the time, I saw that everyone around me seemed to have one system or another in place to organize their physical space and social lives: suction bags to save space on clothing, color-coded labels on boxes for books, photo albums, digital calendars that accounted for their every hour. I was so impressed by the organized people who surrounded me, but I didn’t think I could ever become one of them. I didn’t have a system to organize my chaos, and I had resigned to that fact.

The decluttering “game” that changed everything.

It wasn’t until I stumbled upon Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, the simple living experts behind The Minimalist website and documentary, that things began to change. What struck me about their philosophy was its simplicity: They said that the best way to organize your stuff is to get rid of most of it.

Their 30-day game plan made sense to me, so I decided to play. It went like this:

Day 1: Trash, donate, or sell one item.


Day 2: Trash, donate, or sell two items.

Follow that pattern up for 30 days, and at the end of the month you’ll have trashed, donated or sold over 500 things.

The first few days are supposed to be the easiest, nudging you to get rid of the items you’ve been too lazy to part with in the past. But even as I continued to work my way through the month, I noticed I wasn’t removing anything I truly valued. It was just all the excess stuff: clothes I hadn’t worn in years, kitchen accessories I no longer used, boxes of “just-in-case” items, old magazines I might read one day (but probably wouldn’t).

And as the 30 days went on, I noticed that my shiny new physical space was giving me a newfound sense of mental space too. It was creating room for me to breathe.

Organization shouldn’t stop at home.

By the end of the month, these physical changes had made such a positive impact on my head space that I wanted the benefits to transfer to other areas in my life. If a simple cleanup of my physical surroundings could feel this good, what could decluttering the rest of my life do? What would happen if I only committed to the things I really valued and scrapped all the activities I didn’t really love?

I stopped going to every social event just to fulfill other people’s expectations and started planning my days more intentionally. I limited my screen time and decided to use the extra hours to read, write, or go to the gym. I also realized that now that I wasn’t spending so much money on stuff I didn’t need, I could afford to work one day less each week and commit that day to writing, learning, and investing more into my own business.

I couldn’t believe how much free time had seemingly appeared out of nowhere, all because I got rid of the excess in my life.

Six years after these initial changes, the benefits have continued to add value to my days. I now focus my day on my faith, family, and health. I no longer buy everything that excites me in the moment, because I know that in most cases I appreciate free space more than a new object.

It turns out that I’m far more organized than my friends and family ever realized. When you don’t have as much to organize, you don’t need as many systems in place to do it all for you. I’d just been trying to do too much at once.

Maybe you are too.

Eager to learn more about the duo that inspired this journey? Check out mbg’s interview with The Minimalists here.

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