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Happy Birthday To Me!

21 Sep

*Disclaimer: This post is long, full of pictures, and much more focused on my life and birthday than it is the food. So if that’s not your thing, I won’t be the least bit offended if you skip this one. There’s a good salmon recipe coming up in the next post…..I’ll win you back, I just *know* it!

On my 5th birthday I was a cake-loving, shy, close-mouthed smile girl. We've come a long way, baby! But, Lord, look at those fabulously '80s outfits we all have. And also, I'd like to note that my mom is still this beautiful, so I'm REALLY lucking out in the gene pool. Of note: my mom is 38 years old in this picture. (I KNOW!!!!!)

On my 5th birthday I was a cake-loving, shy, close-mouthed smile girl. We’ve come a long way, baby! But, Lord, look at those fabulously ’80s outfits we all have. And also, I’d like to note that my mom is still this beautiful, so I’m REALLY lucking out in the gene pool. Of note: my mom is 38 years old in this picture. (I KNOW!!!!!)

Any summer baby like myself will tell you that we wait allllll year for the warm months to arrive here in the Pacific Northwest. And when they do, we bask proper. I was ahead of the game this year, prepping numerous playlists for all SORTS of shenanigans. The winning of them all, head and shoulders above, was my “100% Summer” Playlist, which I’m only giving up now because summer is over, and let’s face it, us Leos tend to be a little “Me, Me, Me” about stuff like that. It’s just a thing.

I hope you’re not getting your hopes up that I’ll have some killer birthday cake recipe or cake related picture in here. I didn’t bake or eat birthday cake this year. I didn’t blow out any birthday candles. I must be doing it right, because this has been, hands down, the most amazing birthday (month) I’ve ever had in my entire life. 31 was an incredible year, and I have a distinct feeling 32 will blow it out of the water by New Years.

Copyright 2014 Siiri Sampson. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2014 Siiri Sampson. All Rights Reserved.

If you’ve been with the blog for a year or more, you know I’m NOTORIOUS for stretching the festivities across the entire month of August. This will never change. You know who benefits from this approach? Everyone I know. Because people love a semi-legit reason to celebrate with friends and family. Without further ado, here’s what went down, where and with whom:

Restaurants

Source: Eater.com [Photo: S. Pratt]

Aragona – Source: Eater.com [Photo: S. Pratt]

Right out the gate, I tried Aragona on August 1st. The bartender was incredibly knowledgeable, the staff was kind, the interior was beautiful, the food was on point and the cocktails were crisp and well balanced. Perfect date spot. Of course, if you’re a Seattleite, you may have heard Jason is shuttering it and reopening soon as the Italian centric Vespolina.

I also hit up Bravehorse a couple times for beers and shuffleboard with old friends, which is a walkable, perfectly relaxing spot to end a week. The new Mezcaleria Oaxaca also proved a valuable downtown/Cap Hill asset in the sunset catching department.

The cocktail of my 30's - The Old Fashioned - has only become better with my age. HA! Copyright 2014 Siiri Sampson. All Rights Reserved.

The cocktail of my 30′s – The Old Fashioned – has only become better with my age. HA!
Copyright 2014 Siiri Sampson. All Rights Reserved.

For full-blown birthday celebrations, I touched down at Miller’s Guild twice with different batches of out-of-towners because I can walk there in 5 minutes, thereby only making me 10 minutes late because, HI, HAVE WE MET?! And somehow, because I’m a mastery of calendars, I was able to con my various groups of girlfriends into taking over Damn The Weather no less than 3 times. If this place continues to get accolades on its current speed-of-sound trajcectory, I’m going to have to start some counter tactics….. Everyone knows about it and while I’m so incredibly happy for my friends that are involved in such a great project that makes the cocktails and food above and below happen, I’m starting to fear I’ll never be able to get a seat! (see HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE for starters!)

Damn The Weather - Crudo Special. Copyright 2014 Siiri Sampson. All Rights Reserved.

Damn The Weather – Crudo Special.
Copyright 2014 Siiri Sampson. All Rights Reserved.

Additional mentions go to Westward which provided the quintessential Seattle backdrop for a lovely dinner date, as did Oddfellows (as always). Old Sage was the location of a wonderful food blogger event put on by The Frantic Foodie, and Cure was the antidote for midweek catch up amidst every bicycle-polo-playing hipster the Hill had to offer. Seriously, September cannot sustain this kind of gallivanting you guys. That was insane, and I’m leaving out wedding venues and actual bars, because this is already too long and I haven’t even told the actual story yet.

Trips

Siiri Sampson Seattle Food Blogger_A Half Cup Food Blog_Birthday Vacation_1I had tickets to see Arcade Fire on their Reflektor Tour at The Gorge at George and took my best friends, Adam and Troy for a long weekend of doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. IT WAS 100% AMAZING, SEE???

Troy with his Texas Toast on the left, Adam with steak at the ready, on the right. LOVE these newlyweds!!!! Copyright 2014 Siiri Sampson. All Rights Reserved.

Troy with his Texas Toast on the left, Adam with steak at the ready, on the right. LOVE these newlyweds!!!! Copyright 2014 Siiri Sampson. All Rights Reserved.

Our trip to my sister and brother-in-law’s river house (on The Columbia River) was delayed due to road blasting for widening the freeway, so we stopped at this perfect truck stop diner where we all got the salad bar and another meal as if we were stocking up for the winter. We closed out that meal with some local made chocolate treats for the car ride and this amazing sunset.

Copyright 2014 Siiri Sampson. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2014 Siiri Sampson. All Rights Reserved.

Back on the road, we woke up fresh the next day at the River House ready to tackle three full days of being lazy-as-all-hell. Here’s what that looks like:

Copyright 2014 Siiri Sampson. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2014 Siiri Sampson. All Rights Reserved.

You can see Troy photobombing in the pool. Nice one, bro. We also disobeyed all signs and went down to the dry-mudded out river bed which was really cool.

Copyright 2014 Siiri Sampson. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2014 Siiri Sampson. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2014 Siiri Sampson. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2014 Siiri Sampson. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2014 Siiri Sampson. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2014 Siiri Sampson. All Rights Reserved.

We had some HOT WHEELS to take us around the development of vacation homes. Now, anyone that knows me understands it must’ve been hellishly hot for me to swallow my DUCKS PRIDE and parade around in this Loser Cougs Mobile, but it’s a SWEET ride and I’m forever grateful for my amazing siblings for letting us use the house for the weekend!

Copyright 2014 Siiri Sampson. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2014 Siiri Sampson. All Rights Reserved.

And on Friday night we headed to The Gorge Amphitheater for my very first Gorge Concert!

 

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Before the Arcade Fire concert, we enjoyed all the crazy people watching set to the soundtrack of The Antlers, which was a perfect, chill opener for the show. This picture does no justice to the venue or massiveness of The Gorge.

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This photo is totally untouched and perfectly represents why this part of the state of Washington is beloved by so many. A perfect way to start the show.

Siiri Sampson Seattle Food Blogger_A Half Cup Food Blog_Birthday Vacation_12

Summer sunsets – a light show.

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That huge white blur that looks like a street lamp at the top of the hill where we watched the show is actually a FULL MOON that was so incredibly bright it was baffling. We hit the gorge on a perfect day to watch the moon rise at the same time the sun was setting.

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Sorry, this picture is a bit of a fail, but I’ve been trying really hard to take at least one picture of every show I’ve been to this year, the file is getting pretty full, which makes my heart happy and my wallet a little bit lighter. C’est la vie!

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These two. My homies. Fresh off the newlywed train and onto a road trip with me – these guys are always down for an adventure. Perfect rally crew to spend my birthday with. My favorite and my best.

So that was Friday and of course we made sure to turn George, Washington (yes, that’s actually the name of the town – if you can call it a town) inside out:

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This is one of about 4 buildings in the town. So, now we know where to go to EAT.

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Thank god they told us which door to go through, I was afraid we’d get lost! (NOTE: This place was probably closed, not that I’d know because obviously I didn’t get out of the car. Also, there are NO windows. Seems 100% totally legit, right?!)

 

And here’s the crowning glory of their culinary experience:

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When your sign is guarded by a matted down, life-size gorilla and gives directions to “drive to the water tower” I feel like your credibility is *almost* about to come into question. One guess if we drove to the water tower, because, no joke, does anyone else feel like this is a version of “I’ve got some candy for you in my van”?)

So glad I was smart enough to plan the entire menu for the full long weekend, and pack EVERYTHING we needed for a delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner every night.

Of course we had to play all the Scrabble (my all time favorite game, if you didn’t know), watch the sunsets, listen to all the tunes, and have all the fun:

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One of the best spread out boards I’ve played in a while. I had just laid down “ion” and then sat back with my fresh, from scratch bellini (lower right, and thanks to the neighbors who have a peach tree DRIPPING with ripe peaches so I could afford the luxury of bellinis every morning)…

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Basking in my nerdiness – so smug with my science play. Don’t worry about that birthday bag of Fritos, I get at least one weekend a year to indulge the trashy side of my taste buds.

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Adam, getting ready to throw the game with some major, obscure play no doubt. Let’s just say I didn’t win. My boys don’t let me get away with anything, and I love them for it. If you wanna win big, you gotta play with the big kids!

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Penultimate sunset of 31. This is from the patio at the river house, which sits a few hundred yards from the river on the gorge. Fantastic way to end a Saturday.

For dinner the second night, I had started the previous day. I marinated some chicken breast tenders in an ad hoc marinade that I adapted onsite based on my mom’s incredible flank steak marinade. This one had (among other ingredients) brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, sherry vinegar, scallions, sesame seeds, mustard, red wine and honey. Let it sit in the fridge for 24hrs, stirring every 8hrs for full coverage. Then grill up and slice while it’s warm. Served with fresh tomatoes, baby arugula, herb mix, and a homemade lemon soy vinaigrette dressing.

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Simple, fresh Asian chicken salad for dinner on the front patio.

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Toad in the hole, s’mores edition. This is a crowd pleaser because chocolate, marshmallow and duh.

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This breakfast was an embarrassment of riches. Troy manned the waffle maker, I worked everyone’s eggs, and Adam kept an eye on our hashbrowns. A true team effort. It was *silent* at the breakfast table that morning. Too much face-stuffing.

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Sometimes you have to have a meal that is a complete classic, and still give it a bit of a twist. These local brawts were amazing, and we had them on bakery fresh sourdough hoagies with classic condiments and homemade guac. Don’t forget Juanita’s (those tortilla chips are addicting!!!!) Oh, and beer, obviously.

After three days of laying about, doing next to nothing, and constantly sighing out loud because you realize how lucky you are to get time off, go away with friends and family, it was time to head back to the city. This entailed lots of bridges, traffic, and troublemaking in the car. The traffic was EPIC:

This beauty is just 5 minutes from the river house on the way home and is one of my favorite bridges in the state.

This beauty is just 5 minutes from the river house on the way home and is one of my favorite bridges in the state.

And so it begins, we're homeward bound....

And so it begins, we’re homeward bound….

Someone's getting a little slap happy in the car!

Someone’s getting a little slap happy in the car!

I almost forgot! We hit up Cave B for a wine tasting which was a beautiful property that abuts the amphitheater. They didn’t have room for us to have lunch at the restaurant which was a bummer, but we enjoyed sampling a few of the wines and chatting with the staff (you know me, ever the bashful church mouse…I never talk to anyone!)

From the main lodge, just beautiful to sit there and take it all in...

From the main lodge, just beautiful to sit there and take it all in…

Beautiful grapes fell heavy on the vines all over the property like jewels just waiting to be cut and transformed.

Beautiful grapes fell heavy on the vines all over the property like jewels just waiting to be cut and transformed.

And you can stay in these incredible cottages built into the hillside. Just breathtaking. I totally get the allure now.

And you can stay in these incredible cottages built into the hillside. Just breathtaking. I totally get the allure now.

That evening, I took in the final sunset of the year out at the Magnolia Bluffs in great company. The sun setting over the Olympics cannot be beat, and it felt exactly right.

I awoke the next morning, 32, and ready to show the world what I’m made of! I met up with my Board of Directors that night after work for a board meeting at Damn The Weather. We settled some foundational components of The Firm, approved all titles, and generally took care of business. These women are the backbone of my daily life, I am immensely proud to have them backing me.

The Board of Directors. Brains, beauty, brawn and wit.

The Board of Directors. Brains, beauty, brawn and wit.

Rachel, my CSSO (Chief Style and Strategy Officer) and I taking a second out of a deep conversation about following our passions. Love this lady.

Rachel, my CSSO (Chief Style and Strategy Officer) and I taking a second out of a deep conversation about following our passions. Love this lady.

Liz, my DORM (Director of Recruitment and Membership), Tina, the COATB (Chief Of All The Business), and Rachel (CSSO).

Liz, my DORM (Director of Recruitment and Membership), Tina, the COATB (Chief Of All The Business), and Rachel (CSSO).

All the proof, scribed by Leigh Ann, my CCO (Chief Clarity Officer, naturally).

All the proof, scribed by Leigh Ann, my CCO (Chief Clarity Officer, naturally).

We scattered into the evening, as it was a Monday. The first of many board meetings to come was a raging success. I have no idea how I’m going to continue handling all the wonderful things that come throughout the next 12 months. What I do know, however, is that it’s going to be delicious, and I have quite the cast of characters to share it with. I ended the first day of 32 on a pretty perfect note, by just being my self(ie).

Copyright 2014 Siiri Sampson. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2014 Siiri Sampson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Local Plate: Crazy Good Carnitas…

28 Feb

…but that’s about it  at La Cocina del Puerco.

We all know that old saying about “x and y go together like peas and carrots,” but there are things that don’t go together with peas and carrots, right? Either I’m crazy (totally possible, I know), or the folks at La Cocina del Puerco in Bellevue (10246 Main St) are taking the Mexico City style to a dangerously obnoxious level. Steer clear of Grandma’s frozen veggie mix in 70% of the dishes, and pick up some of the best darn taquitos this side of the Columbia.

La Cocina del Puerco_2.JPG

Caliente Carniats+cold surroundings=tasty meal you eat as fast as possible

Down in old town Bellevue, right on Main Street between the posh boutiques and upscale dinner locales sits this seasoned, cafeteria style Mexican joint.

Continue reading

And the winner isssssssss…….

25 Oct

Congratulations to Mike Montesi!!!!! Winner of my Blog Birthday Giveaway!

Mike is the proud new owner of the 5.5 Quart, Hard Anodized, Covered Casserole dish from Rachael Ray

If you didn’t win this giveaway, DON’T FRET!  You still have time left to enter the other giveaway that ends tonight at midnight!

Come back tomorrow to see if you won the hot blue lasagna dish!

(Mike, I’ll email you to get you your prize!!!!)

Hey, Hey, Hey, It’s a GIVEAWAYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!

18 Oct

Okay, everyone sing me Happy Birthday for the blog. Ready?

Good job!  On that I present to you a little giveaway to celebrate. Now, usually people RECEIVE presents on their birthday instead of GIVE them, but I’m feeling generous (and I want you guys to have something to look forward to) so, here it goes:

Thanks to the fine folks over at Amazon.com and The Meyer Corporation, we are giving away a 5.5 Quart, Hard Anodized, Covered Casserole dish from Rachael Ray.

I have never used this so I have no idea if you’ll like it, but if you are the lucky winner, you agree (by entering) to use it and leave an honest review on the Amazon.com page, okay?

Want to enter? Here’s how:

In the spirit of celebrating my blog’s first birthday, post a comment to this blog post telling us your favorite birthday cake, birthday party or birthday present memory from your childhood.  That’s it!  You have from October 18th at 12:00pm Pacific Time to October 24th at 11:59pm Pacific time to enter. One entry per person.

All valid entries will be entered into a random drawing on Monday, October 25th and the winner will be notified on the blog! (Or via email if they leave it in their comment)

Happy Birthday to me-blog and good luck, kitchen kittens!

Happy (belated) Birthday, me blog!

15 Oct

(This is just one of the beautiful and amazeBalls cakes my friend Marc makes at his cakery in NYC, City Cakes!)

http://citycakesny.com/

I can’t believe I missed it, UGH! My first blog birthday came and went, and honestly, I did think about it last week and this week, but I forgot to check.  Oct. 12th, 2009 was my first post.

I won’t get all sentimental on you, but I will GIVE SOME SWEET STUFF AWAY!

Yes, you’re saying, “Siiri, last time you said it was a giveaway you totally flaked on us.” Sorry, you’re right. But this time I won’t!  Starting Monday, come by to enter a giveaway for my 1st birthday. And THEN come back on Tuesday to enter ANOTHER giveaway to celebrate my first column in Seattle Weekly as their new official Eastside contributor!

I won’t tell you more yet, you’ll have to wait till next week to hear the details and get linked to my first column. Lots of fun stuff going on over here. So, stay warm by the first fire you have of this Fall, carve those pumpkins (I will too, so hopefully some pictures will materialize) and I’ll see you foos on Monday!

Happy weekend and happy bloggyityBloggerson birthday to me!

Welcome to Seattle Summer: still cloudy with a chance of Thai Tom

28 Jun

This weekend was VERY eventful – that is to say it was literally full of events.On Friday night, I met up with some of my all time favorite girlfriends from my days at Reed. We hit up Smith on Cap Hill, a restaurant and bar with a taxidermy complex that isn’t for the faint of heart. I heard from the group that the drinks were good, and I had water since I was partaking in the Rock n Roll 1/2 Marathon the next morning.

Lame cell phone camera, I know. Sorry…left my camera at work.

I did however order the Mac n Cheese, which was nothing to write home about, and actually a little disappointing.  There was very little cheese involved and although it had a nice spice to it, that was the only nice thing about it. A waste of $9, although the dishes other people got at the table next to us smelled and looked really good! I would go back. I would not order the Mac n Cheese.

We also had a local celebrity citing (or would that be ‘sighting’? I dunno!), as Dan Savage was sitting at the table behind us. Cool!  Good eye, Bandy!

Then on Saturday, I woke up at 3:30am (no, that’s not a mis-type) and made myself a piping hot bowl of energy-packed oatmeal complete with raisins, walnuts, flax seed, wheat germ and a touch of cream to get my body ready for the 1/2 marathon.  What an experience!  I’m too cheap to buy the pictures that the race company took, so just use your imagination.  It was a great experience, I won’t soon forget. I’m still hobbling around but recovering for sure.

Saturday night was a wash, I was totally down for the count, and I indulged in my dirty secret food pleasure: Pizza Hut deep dish pizza. I know, I know, it’s awful and REALLY bad for you. But I haven’t had it in years, and they deliver, and I couldn’t walk. And I jogged/walked 13.1 miles that day, so I don’t really feel bad about it.

So, fast forward to Sunday afternoon, where I met up with my girlfriends again (plus two of their super nice boyfriends – well done, ladies!) for a stroll around Gas Works park and a late lunch.

We hit up Thai Tom in the University District. It was JUST what the doctor ordered! (Well, to be fair, probably not, but it was what I ordered…..so basically the same thing, right? RIGHT!)

I wanted noodles, so I went with the standard: Phad Thai.

 

So glad I did, because the 2 stars was just enough to get my eyes watering a bit, and the Thai Iced Tea was the perfect cooling combo.  Those guys know their Thai. The music was good, the food was great and the company was irreplaceable!

Here’s the crew, Hester in front, then Kat, Bandy, Zigs (can’t see her) and Scott.

So filling and wonderful!  Then we moved on to get a refreshing dessert, and wanted something in walking distance, so of course I suggested my favorite Bubble Tea joint, Pochi!

Everyone got really different things which was great because we all got to sample the various treats.  Here you see the spoils:

Let me break this down for you:

Front right: Scott and Zigs shared a taro fro yo (aka Frozen Yogurt) with Banana and Mango (fresh).

Back right: Hester got Hong Kong style milk tea with traditional tapioca Bobas (she’s so cool….that’s very hard core for Bubble Tea!)

Back left: Kat and Bandy shared a Red Bean milk tea with Rainbow jellies (Bandy didn’t like the consistency of the Jellies so much, but loved the red bean flavor of the milk tea. I agree it was tasty!)

Front and center: I went with a Pina Colada milk smoothie with Strawberry jellies. So good, but I forgot how filling it is and how cold. Next time, I’ll switch back to milk tea, and mayyyyyyyyyybe a fro yo. WHAT?!

More food adventures to come later this week, and thanks to the suggestion from my friend, Kim, I will be posting more videos and pictures where I’m in the shot, rather than just the food! Thanks for the idea, Kim, and Happy Monday everyone!

Great dining out quick tips for the summer

27 May

I was logged into MyRegence this morning, which is the online component for people like me that have Regence Blue Shield for health insurance, and I came across a great little article I wanted to share.

7 Tips to Eat Out for Less
Learn how you can dine out for less money — while still making healthy choices.
by Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN

Finding good-for-you food and good value isn’t always easy when dining out these days. Too often, the less you spend for a meal, the more calories you’ll end up buying — and consuming. For instance ordering nachos, a big burrito and a sweet tea might cost you six or seven dollars — and about half-a-day’s worth of calories. This might seem like a good deal at first. But you probably won’t feel that great about it afterwards.But it is possible to get good value while making healthy choices. Here are some strategies:

  1. Pre-plan: You can find menus for many restaurants online. Many chains often post nutrition facts on specific menu items as well. Research Web sites and user comments before you go out to eat whenever possible.
  2. Don’t leave home too hungry: People tend to order more food when their stomachs are growling. Eating something light an hour or so before a meal will help curb your hunger. A piece of fruit, sliced veggies, a small bowl of cereal or a glass of low-fat milk are all good options.
  3. Go for the appetizers: Order up one or two as a meal as long as they’re not fried or drenched in cheese or butter. Try meat-free appetizers that feature fresh vegetables, whole grains or local seafood.
  4. Share with friends: Splitting dishes with friends saves you cash — and calories. Most restaurants offer portions large enough that one entrée and a small side are more than enough for two. When you share with larger groups you can get more flavors into the mix. Just be sure your friends are open to healthier menu options!
  5. Drink smart: Ordering beverages can make your bill climb in a hurry. Especially alcohol. If you order tap water (maybe with a slice of lemon or lime), you’re paying nothing, adding zero calories, and maybe filling yourself up so you don’t overeat. Smart call!
  6. Have a strategy for dessert: When you skip dessert you’re saving money — and usually excess calories. If you do feel the need for a sweet finish, consider something fruit-based. If you make a more indulgent choice, share it with a friend. Or cut it in half when it gets to the table and save the rest for later.
  7. Look for bargains: Last but not least, become a bargain shopper. Many restaurants offer deals during off-peak hours or on mid-week days. Early bird dinner specials can offer significant savings. This is good time to get a group together for a meal.

 

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in clinical nutrition and dietetics from New York University.

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