28
Sep 17

Barcelona 2017: Random fun

Sometimes the best fun when you’re traveling is the random, unplanned fun.

Tibidabo

On our first day, we saw from our apartment what looked like a castle on a hill. “That’s a church,” our host’s sister told us. “And an amusement park.”

Huh? At first I thought maybe her English was off, but of course she was right. Our apartment wasn’t far from the foot of Mount Tibidabo, home of Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor

— and an amusement park. Of course we had to visit.

Part of the fun was taking a funicular up the mountain (although the whole ride one woman decided to stand and face us, and on my other side, another woman kept getting up and looking anxiously around, for what I don’t know). The church itself was, well, a church. We didn’t go to the top since that was another five euros on top of the park admission. The view from the park itself was amazing enough:

In my old age, I’ve become scared of heights, but I still rode this fucking thing. I kept my eyes closed and hung on for dear life most of the time, but I still rode it. We also visited the haunted house, what they call Hotel Krueger, although it was nothing like a hotel. The line was hella long, and people would sometimes burst out screaming and running.

So was it scary? Kind of. It was more about the anticipation of someone jumping out at you (there was no physical contact, thank goodness). One guy in our group was like the canary in the coal mine: he’d jump or scream, and then we’d see the scary thing.

The only thing that really startled me was the little person. There were two oversized dolls, but it turned out one wasn’t a doll, and he casually jumped down from the shelf and started following us. Eek!

We also rode the log flume (the first drop wasn’t bad but the second one, I ended up hanging onto my friend for dear life) and the “Russian mountain” roller coaster (see more about the language of roller coasters). That was scary but fun.

Barcelona Aquarium

Not the biggest aquarium I’ve seen, but still a nice time. The highlight was definitely the penguin feeding and watching the penguins swim back and forth. At the same time I worried that they didn’t have a big enough pool to swim in.

Torre Glories

We kept seeing this phallic-shaped building from a distance and finally one day went to see it up close and personal.

Formerly known as Torre Agbar (Agbar is the name of the company that once owned it), it’s 38 stories high and was purchased by another company just this year and renamed after the nearby square. Its nicknames include “the suppository” and “penis-building.”

Beach

I didn’t go to the beach during our first visit so I felt compelled to do so this time around. While I’m not a fan of the sun — I basically turn into one big freckle — I had a lovely time.

It helped that we went to a gay nude beach. While they were plenty of in-the-buff dudes and a few heterosexual couples, there were no kids, which meant peace and quiet. I didn’t get naked but I did get in the water. Here’s evidence:

The Mediterranean is very salty. Who knew? (Lots of people probably.)

Besides getting a good dunk and reading, I also had an aperol spritz, which knocked me right out. I fell asleep for a good 20 minutes.

Gigantes y cabezudos

Our second weekend happened to fall on La Merce, a big annual festival honoring the Virgin of Grace, the patron saint of the archdiocese of Barcelona. One of the festival’s features are gigantes y cabezudos, which translates as “giants and bigheads.” Made of papier mache, a gigante is kind of a cross between a costume, a puppet, and your worst nightmare.

A post shared by yonkey (@yonkey) on

We saw a couple in action on Las Ramblas, and after that I was obsessed. Just by chance one day we passed this place, which has a whole bunch of gigantes on display in their courtyard.

During the festival, we saw the gigantes dancing around again, and I visited the Basilica de Santa Maria del Pi, where the oldest ones are kept in a glass case. Unfortunately because of said case, it was hard to get a good picture.

Graffiti

Walking around, neither of us could resist taking pics of the great graffiti.

Here are some of my favorites:

Want more Barcelona? Check out my posts on museums and eats and drinks.


27
Sep 17

Barcelona 2017: Eats and drinks

Second only to museums when I travel is trying new things to eat and drink. Barcelona was no different.

La Taverna del Born

This place was special if only because it was near our apartment and the first place we ate. I was starving and ordered too much food: croquettes and patatas bravas. I also got the first of many cappuccinos:

Teresa Carles

My friend is a vegetarian and when he finds a veggie place likes, he tends to go back a lot. Hence, our two visits to Teresa Carles (which we went to on our first trip to Barcelona as well).

We went there for dinner on our first night. I got the pappardelle with red pesto and a glass of white wine:

So good.

For dessert my friend got some kind of cake. I didn’t really like it. The icing was not icing. But I guess you can’t have everything.

Our second visit we both got salads, Italian for him and goat cheese for me, and shared a bread basket.

I guess a salad was “healthier” because of all the vegetables, but the serving of goat cheese was, um, generous shall we say. It was also delicious.

Vegatalia

My friend was excited about trying this vegetarian place for the first time, but then it turned out to be one we ate at on our last visit. It was still good though. I got what they called “brunch,” a delightful assortment of different sweet and savory eats:

The only thing I didn’t like were the kiwi. They were incredibly sour.

Casa Lola Rambla

A random pick after a long day at the amusement park (more on that later). We both felt like paella, although I was a little worried that it would be a huge serving that I wouldn’t be able to finish. But the portion turned out to be perfect.

The rice was black instead of yellow and was infused with flavor. I only wished there had been more shrimp and other seafood. Of course paella wouldn’t be complete without some sangria.

Demasié

Another favorite haunt was this bakery on Carrer de la Princesa. Their specialty are these incredible-looking cinnamon rolls in a multitude of flavors.

Our first visit they had matcha and red velvet, which we found out later was a rare occurrence. My friend got a matcha and I got a red velvet. While the matcha was good — very matcha-y — the red velvet didn’t really taste like red velvet. It was just sweet. Maybe it would have been better with a cream cheese icing.

However, my friend was hooked and kept going back. (It helped that the guy working was cute and very nice.) He was hoping for matcha but they never had them again during our visit.

La Xocolateria

While my pal was addicted to Demasié rolls, my poison was chocolate croissants. I tried a few random places, and while they were all good, La Xocolateria, which was near where we stayed, took the cake.

I went one day and asked for my usual. Luckily the guy behind the counter spoke English and offered a hazelnut. At first I said no, but then thought twice and decided what the heck, I’ll try a hazelnut.

I thought it would be similar to the almond croissants from La Boulangerie, but no. When the guy said “hazelnut,” he meant Nutella. That’s right: a croissant oozing with Nutella. Cue angel chorus.

Nutella croissants are definitely not something I want to be eating all the time, but I was curious if any places in New York sell them. Epicerie Boulud seems to be the main one although I don’t know if I’ll go out of my way to get one from there.

Raco Hofmann

We had brunch one morning at this little cafe that’s part of a theater. I had a yummy ham and cheese croissant sandwich and a cappuccino.

Satan’s Coffee Corner

We hit this spot for brunch one morning mostly because we were intrigued by the name. Turns out the food is really good too, not to mention my cortado:

My friend and I ordered polar opposites in terms of healthiness: a kind quinoa porridge with fruit for him and sausages and biscuits in gravy for me. He did, however, eat one of my biscuits.

Dionisos

Sometimes takeout is just easier, and this Greek place was right up our alley. I got the lamb and beef burger patties with all the fixings: salad, sauces, pita. It was a lot of food for not a lot of euros (unfortunately I can’t remember how much it was). I also got a can of stuffed grape leaves.

Mercado de la Boqueria

We had heard from a few people that this market was a must-see, and indeed it is, even if just for the spectacle of it:

But while it was huge, it was kind of the same thing over and over. Meat, fruit and juices, tapas, seafood, again and again, with a few egg, dried fruit, empanda, and candy stalls sprinkled in. Still, it was fun to wander up and down the aisles.

In terms of eats, I got a little cone of chorizo, quail eggs, and patatas. Turned out it was mostly lettuce filling that cone. A bit of a rip off. However, the fresh fruit cup I also got was amazing.

Santa Caterina Market

I had read online that this market was similar to Boqueria, only smaller and less crazy. It was indeed smaller, but maybe because I went on a Saturday, still pretty crazy. I liked my food better: three oversized croquettes, chicken curry, gorgonzola and nuts, and goat cheese. I liked the chicken curry best, but I don’t know if that’s because it was the first one I ate and I was hungry.

Bar Marsella

This absinthe bar was recommended to my friend. It’s supposedly the oldest bar in Barcelona and was frequented by the likes of Hemingway, Picasso, and Gaudi. While you can tell the decor was once interesting, even beautiful — especially the chandeliers — now it’s pretty rundown. However, the absinthe was still effective.

What you get is half of the glass of the potent stuff, two sugarcubes, tiny forks, and a water bottle to share. We uncapped the bottle and poured the water over the sugarcubes before realizing a small hole was pierced in the cap and you were supposed to use it like a squeeze bottle.

I got pretty drunk. Like, I could barely walk in a straight line to the bathroom. Luckily we weren’t too far from our apartment.

Bun Bo Vietnam

We first saw this place when we stumbled upon this famous kissing mural:

Then on one of my solo wanderings, I stumbled upon it again and decided to give it a try. By then it was the last day of my trip and I was craving Asian food. I got the bun, or rice noodles, with chicken. It was good overall but the vegetables kind of sucked: wilted lettuce. I don’t get it because their produce is really good. I also got an aperol spritz and for dessert, tapioca pudding.

Which kind of looks like pasta with a red sauce, but I believe that’s cinnamon. It was tasty.

Porch snacks

While eating out was fun, having meals at home was also lovely. We’d sit on the porch, eat random things, drink the wine our kind hosts left us, and read or write postcards.

One night when I was on my own, I ended up having most of a pizza I had bought from the supermarket along with half a bottle of 10 euro rose. Ah, vacation.

Up next: random fun.


26
Sep 17

Barcelona 2017: Museums and culture

As you might know, every year for the past several years, I’ve had the chance to go to Europe. I thought it might not happen this year, but then I suddenly got a message from my friend about Barcelona.

I’ve been to Spain once, back in 2014 when we spent two weeks in Madrid and a couple of days in Barcelona. So I was excited to see what I had missed and to revisit some favorite places. And as with all my trips, some of those favorite places were the museums and other cultural spots.

La Sagrada Familia

During our last visit to Barcelona, we skipped La Sagrada Familia. We walked past it, but saw how long the line was and said forget it. Plus it was so frigging hot. This time we got the tickets even before we left.

In case you didn’t know, the Sagrada Familia is famous for its distinct Gaudi-esque style. Construction began in 1882 and is still going. It’s supposed to be complete by 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.

It was less crowded than I expected but still pretty crowded. We did a very quick walk through the church before going to the tower we had picked, the Tower of the Passion. Our other choice was the Tower of Nativity, but I read online the Passion one was slightly higher and perhaps gave a better view.

The view certainly didn’t suck:

After our time in the tower, we did an audio tour of the church itself.

I love how Gaudi incorporated his love of nature into his work.

Jewish Quarter and Ancient Synagogue

I loved visiting the Jewish Quarters of Paris and Prague so I thought I’d love Barcelona’s too. However, there wasn’t much to it, although we did get to see the oldest synagogue in Spain. It was teeny tiny because, back in the day, synagogues could only be as big as the city’s smallest church.

Museum of Design

We didn’t have plans to go to this museum, but it was in the vicinity of something else we wanted to see so we thought what the heck.

Because we hadn’t done research, we had no idea the David Bowie exhibit was there. I enjoyed it. Of course I loved all the different outfits, but I also liked learning about how he infused storytelling and his fascination with space in his songs. I mean, duh if you already know about Bowie, but I didn’t.

After I came home, I learned that the Bowie exhibit will be at the Brooklyn Museum early next year. My friend and I are so cutting edge.

Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona

Before we left I did some research on what exhibits would be open while we were there, and found this one on Bjork at the Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB).

While I’m not familiar with her recent music, I’m still a Bjork fan. Back in college I was really into the Sugarcubes, specifically their Stick Around for Joy album. She was so incredible and devastating in Dancer in the Dark. Plus I love that she’s just an all-around nut.

I really liked the exhibit. Back in 2015, the MoMA had a form of it, which was widely panned. I didn’t go to it so I’m not sure how it was different, except, as The New York Times says, it included “ludicrously infantilizing and tedious” audio narration.

Thankfully there was none of that at the CCCB. The exhibit was divided into four parts. The first was a room playing her video for Black Lake on opposite walls and with surround sound. We were encouraged to walk around. I really liked the song, which seems to be about her split from the artist Matthew Barney. (Of course afterward I went down the rabbit hole of that relationship. He seems like a tool.)

The second part was a 360 degree virtual reality “experience” of Stonemilker. It was fun because she would disappear from view, you’d turn, and there she’d be.

The third part was VR again, but I couldn’t watch it. It was Mouth Mantra and it gave me motion sickness so I kept my eyes closed the whole time.

The fourth was also VR but Bjork was basically animated as a moth or fairy (I can’t remember the songs), and in that case seemed like she was really there. At one point I had no idea where she was. I looked down and she was at my feet. It was weird. Plus you had these gadgets where you could “draw” on what was basically her vagina. (Oh Bjork.)

The last part was just all of her videos. I watched one, Hunter, which was so weirdly charming. Those two words sum her up, I think.

Fundacio Joan Miro

We took a funicular up to Montjuïc (or “Jewish Mountain,” named for the remains of a medieval Jewish cemetery found there) to see this museum dedicated to Joan Miro. I enjoyed it since I enjoy most museums, but I can’t say I really “get” his work. The only photograph I took was off this TARDIS sculpture by a different artist.

We also visited the Montjuïc Castle, which wasn’t that impressive. But you kind of have to go if you’re there, and it’s only five euros.

To get back down, we took the cable car. That was pretty fun and not too scary.

National Catalonia Art Museum

This was my favorite museum the last time I visited, mostly because it was a very trippy experience. I had walked about five miles in 90 plus degree heat to get there and was delirious from thirst and hunger. Plus you have to go up what felt like three escalators just to get there, and once you do, it’s this incredible view of the city. In front of the building, there are all these waterfalls, and at the foot, the Magic Fountain.

This time was less trippy. The weather was cool, overcast, and raining off and on, and we didn’t have to walk very far to get there (we came from the cable cars from Montjuïc). Instead of a chocolate muffin with frosting inside, I got a croque monsieur, which kind of sucked, although I ate the whole thing.

I liked the art though. I love how the medieval section, with its church artifacts, feels like a church. This time I went through the modern art wing, which I thought I had missed last time, but it turns out it wasn’t open when I was there. My favorites were the art nouveau furniture and decor.

Gaudi Exhibition Center

This was the last museum I went to during my trip, and it was a spur of the moment decision. I really liked it, and not just because it provided A/C and peace and quiet on a hot and crowded day. It focused on what inspired Gaudi, and included an audio tour with price of admission. What I found most fascinating were the the 3D renderings of his models that were never built.

Next up: eats and drinks!


05
Aug 17

Mini vacay, the Boston edition

Sunset over Somerville.

A couple of friends and I were supposed to go on a “girls’ getaway” last weekend. Unfortunately we couldn’t find a reasonably priced place to stay so that plan got scrapped. But I still spent a few days with my bestie in Boston.

The Greek

I got an early start to the weekend by taking Friday off and going out Thursday night.

Another friend and I met up for drinks and apps at the Greek in Tribeca. It’s a little pricey but the cocktails and food are yummy. I was trying to choose a cocktail when the bartender suddenly took the menu from me and said, “I will make something for you.” Oh um okay. I thought he was going to custom-make something because he overheard my lamenting the fact that they no longer had their ouzo-based cocktail, but it was just a cucumber and gin one off the menu.

I mean, it was good, but not what I would have chosen. Although the garnishes, Mexican cucumbers which look exactly like watermelons, were so cute. For a nosh, I had the keftedes, Greek meatballs. Yum!

The movie we saw was Girls Trip. It was enjoyable. All of the actors were good, but Tiffany Haddish was ridiculously engaging and hilarious.

Boston Burger Company

I got into town about one on Friday, and was starving despite the plethora of snacks I had brought on the bus. I was craving a burger, and this place was right near the subway station where we met. I got the Killer Bee, which comes with a stack of BBQ sauce-covered onion rings:

I swear there was an actual burger under there.

We also shared some garlic parm fries. Really hit the spot.

Fuller Craft Museum

My friend told me how when her mom visited the previous weekend, she barely wanted to do anything. She just wanted to hang out, run errands, and help my friend organize and clean her condo. I was like #weekendgoals! and decided I wouldn’t pressure myself into doing a million “fun” activities.

We did just one: visit the Fuller Craft Museum.

I enjoyed their quilt exhibit, which was different interpretations of what’s called the Bull’s Eye pattern. I ran into a lady who remarked that while the quilts were beautiful, hardly anyone would have room to hang one on their walls.

“I guess you’re right,” I said. “But you could throw it on your bed.”

“You mean use it as a blanket?” the lady asked, seemingly flabbergasted by the idea.

“Well yes. They’re quilts.”

“No, they’re not.” She pointed to the adjoining room. “Those are quilts over there. These aren’t quilts.”

“Yes, they are. They’re part of the same exhibit.”

“Oh.” She looked around. “They would make beautiful quilts.”

Yes, because they’re literally quilts.

Anyway, I also liked their permanent collection as well as the Amber Cowan Re/Collection exhibit:

What she does is take vintage glass and glassworks, and either work them into new pieces or recreate and reinterpret them. The pieces were an interesting mix of whimsical, erotic, and borderline grotesque.

The only downsides to the museum were that I was hungry and freezing the whole time. I knew it was going to be cool but I didn’t realize how cool, and while I had long pants, I didn’t have a heavy enough jacket. I would have brought a Cliff Bar for a snack, but we assumed they’d have a cafe. A woman said they used to but not anymore.

IKEAn cuisine

Besides the museum, we mostly just shopped. Friday afternoon we hit two shoe stores (I bought two pairs of shoes), Old Navy (a cute top and dress), and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Saturday, we went to IKEA.

After two hours of starving at the museum, I was really happy to chow down on some Swedish meatballs.

I got mine with the sides that come with the veggie balls. The vegetables, green beans, were the same, but instead of mashed potatoes, I got a quinoa and farro mix. We also got dessert, this delicious chocolate and hazelnut cake.

Ah, Brockton, the home of exotic IKEAn cuisine.

Eating and drinking at home

In the continued theme of a chill weekend, we ate the rest of our meals at home. Friday night my friend made scallops in a cream sauce over pasta; Saturday morning we had a hearty brunch of scrambled eggs, chicken sausage, and toast; and that night we had some random snacks after our late lunch at IKEA.

We also drank quite a bit of booze.

Absinthe

My friend was on purging spree and determined to get rid of a bunch of liquor, one of which was the absinthe she bought on our trip to Prague many years ago.

Following some instructions from the Internet, I divided the small bottle into two glasses and slowly added some sugar. You’re supposed to melt the sugar slowly over a slotted spoon, but of course we didn’t have that and made do with fast-melting sugar. I sprinkled it in very slowly and kept stirring. Still, it wasn’t dissolving.

After a while I gave up and took a sip. It was SO STRONG. Like burn-a-path-of-fire down my throat strong. I looked up what kind of mixers to use with absinthe and found other instructions that said to add water. Oops. I added a little, which lightened the taste (although it still had a kick) and finally dissolved the sugar.

The absinthe got us tipsy but we weren’t freaking out. It did feel different from other alcohol. The word that keeps coming to mind is a “waviness.” My friend kept saying she felt warm throughout her body. Later when I looked in the mirror, I saw that my eyes were SO RED. I don’t think my eyes get red from other alcohol.

Becherovka bitters and Kavalan whisky

The next night we tried this, another Prague purchase. I followed a Czech mule recipe, which includes ginger beer and lime. At first I put just one ounce of the bitters, but because their alcohol content is so low, the cocktail mostly tasted like ginger beer and lime. We added at least another ounce.

It was slightly stronger, but not by much. That’s when I decided to add the Taiwan whisky that I had brought.

I tried it straight first, and it was yummy. While my friend drank hers neat, I dumped mine in my cocktail. It wasn’t terrible but not fabulous either. Still, I drank most of it, and it did the trick.

Cherry rum and Dubliner liqueur

We also tried a couple of small bottles of liquor my friend had won in some contest. The first one, a cherry rum, smelled like cough syrup to me — and tasted EXACTLY like it. It was so disgusting and the aftertaste, even worse.

The other was a Dubliner liqueur with honeycomb liqueur. It was pretty good although too sweet for me, at least after all that ginger beer.

Chilling on the porch

My last night my friend and I just sat on her porch chatting, drinking, and eating.

It was so simple yet so much fun. Sometimes the simplest things are.


11
Jul 17

Palisades Interstate Park: A nice day for a hike

For last summer’s hike, I wasn’t prepared. This time I was although I felt dorky wearing my big hiking boots with shorts. Then again, that seems like a typical hiker’s outfit. Plus it wasn’t a zillion degrees out. It was barely 80, not humid, and breezy. A perfect day for a hike.

While it’s always lovely to go up to Hudson Valley, the schlep is quite long. The Palisades Interstate Park, on the other hand, is just a 15-minute drive from Fort Lee, which is a 30-minute bus ride from Manhattan.

Before heading out, we had a light lunch at one of the picnic tables near this gorgeous view:

That’s the Hudson River, by the way. The park is on the state line (hence, the name) between New Jersey and New York so while you’re walking, you’ll cross between two states.

While one of us wanted to do the Giant Stairs (described as “challenging, with a difficult rock scramble”), we decided on a “moderate” hike instead, the Peanut Leap Cascade. It’s just 2.5 miles but much of it is rocky and steep. I don’t mind going uphill, but what I don’t like is downhill. I always feel like I’m going to slip and fall, even with my hiking boots.

Still, I wasn’t too worried about myself, but I was about a couple we ran into. The woman had a newborn strapped to her chest and seemed apprehensive. Her husband kept insisting she’d be fine. In the end they were — we’d run into them again later — but he still seemed like a clueless jerk.

Anyway, we passed some beautiful views, as well as a waterfall —

palisades_interstate_waterfull_IG

— where I got caught in a stream of light and water:

There was also a swing for two. I’m sure there are some embarrassing photos and possibly a video of my friend and I swinging together. The swing was right near the Hudson River:

palisades_interstate_hudson_close_IG

I could listen to the sound of water lapping all day.

After we finished that hike, it was still early so we decided on another, easier one, a two-mile trek to the Women’s Federation Monument.

That hike was definitely easier than the first one, but it wasn’t exactly easy. There was one steep part, which knocked us all on our asses by the time we were done. The castle-like Women’s Federation Monument, by the way, is dedicated to the women who were behind the conservation efforts in the area. Before then, according to the website, “several big quarries had begun blasting the Hudson’s famous Palisades Cliffs for gravel for roadbeds and for broken stone for concrete.”

After that hike we were all ready for an early dinner. We decided on Soba Noodle Azuma in Fort Lee. Despite the warm weather, I was craving something hot. I got the nabeyaki udon:

Which was literally boiling when they set it in front of me. A delicious way to end a delightful day.


18
Jun 17

A Storm King Saturday

Like Beacon and Dia, the Storm King Art Center was a place we had been talking about going to for a long time. Last weekend we finally made it. But before we got there, we made a couple of stops.

Dottie Audrey’s Bakery Kitchen

First as per our usual routine was food. Namely, lunch at this cute place in Tuxedo Park. I was so tempted by the cookies, but stuck with the Huschwaring Breakfast, two eggs over a casserole of sausage, kale, potatoes, and cream cheese. What’s huschwaring? Husch seems to mean “shoo” in German, but I don’t know what waring is. Whatever it means, it was delicious.

Walkway over the Hudson

Next was this converted railway bridge.

On the Walkway Over the Hudson

Also known as the Poughkeepsie Bridge, it spans the Hudson River between Poughkeepsie and Highland. It was built as a railroad bridge back in 1889 and taken out of commission in 1974 after a fire. In 2009 it reopened as a pedestrian walkway.

Walking on it was lovely when there was a breeze. Otherwise it was pretty hot. Signs warned dog owners that the concrete could burn poor Fido’s paws, but the dogs we saw looked pretty happy.

Bad Seed Cider Company

What better way to cool off than at a cidery? We got two tasting flights for a total of eight ciders between the five of us.

We picked non-hoppy ones so to me they were all yummy. The only one that was a little hard to drink was the sour one, which was very sour. At first I thought the raspberry one was too sweet, but it started to grow on me. I also really liked the ginger, Up North, lager, and bourbon.

We also did a blind taste test. None of us could guess the right one, except for Aki’s fiance.

Storm King

Finally, Storm King! I’d heard of it from Aki long ago, and recently saw it on the latest season of Master of None, which made it look so incredibly gorgeous.

Photo via Netflix

My photos were just meh, but I was able to snap a few of the sculptures, like Zhang Huan’s Three-Legged Buddha —

Alexander Calder’s The Arch —

Alexander Liberman’s The Iliad —

— and a few of Mark di Suvero’s works:

I also enjoyed the sunlight through the trees —

— and the clouds after a brief yet crazy rainstorm.

We didn’t get to see the entire place (it’s enormous) but we saw quite a lot.

Kimchi Mama

We had stayed at Storm King almost until closing so by the time we got to this Korean takeout place in New Jersey, I was STARVING. I probably could have gotten one of the “Cupbobs” with dumplings for an extra $1, but instead I had the marinated beef bowl. It was good. It had tons of veggies and the beef was tasty, but it was a bit overpriced at $12.

Want to read about even more of NYC adventures (for some reason)? Check them all out.

[Flickr photo: “On the Walkway Over the Hudson” by slgckgc, CC BY 2.0]


17
Jun 17

A cheap night in Chelsea

Whenever my friend Ellen comes to town, it means an action-packed few days. Last weekend was no different.

Chelsea Market

My other friend Aki and I got Friday night started early with a visit to Chelsea Market.

The market is a lot more happening than it used to be. I remember going years ago and it being kind of empty except for a couple of markets and bakeries. Now there are tons of little eateries, as well as tons of people.

I got there a little early so I had time to squeeze in a —

— at the Chelsea Wine Vault. Most of the wines were delicious. One white was a tad dry for me. I didn’t expect to like the reds, but they were very mellow. My favorite of course was the sweetest one, which was also bubbly. That was enough to get me good and tipsy so I didn’t even need an $8 happy hour cocktail.

Then for dinner Aki and I split a ground lamb hummus entree from Dizengoff for $14, or $7 each.

That with a little cucumber and tomato salad and a fresh, hot pita each was surprisingly filling and unsurprisingly delicious.

We wanted dessert and thought Seed + Mill had ice cream in cones and cups, but turns out they sell their goat’s milk ice cream only by the pint at their Chelsea Market location. The guy tried to convince us to get some halva. We tried some (free sample), and while it was good, it wasn’t ice cream.

Whitney Museum

We met up with Ellen at the Whitney which was, you guessed it, free! Friday nights admission is pay what you wish. Also my Pratt alumnus ID gets me and one guest in for gratis.

As you can guess, the line to get in was hella long, especially since it was the last weekend of the Biennial. But it moved pretty quickly, and before we knew it, we were in.

So how was it? Hard to say. There were so many people, it was hard to get a handle the exhibit. Maybe it would have been more meaningful if I had the chance to read and absorb, but instead I was just annoyed and overwhelmed. I did, however, enjoy the Calder exhibit that opened that night.

The last Whitney Biennial I really liked was way back with Matthew Barney’s CREMASTER Cycle series. I can’t remember what year it was. I don’t remember being impressed by any since then although maybe I’ve just forgotten.

Next up: a Saturday at Storm King.


23
Apr 17

Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Easter Parade

So my friends and I ate and drank at a ton of places, and went up to Beacon for the day. Think that’s enough? Au contraire.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

This was my first time here, and it was perfectly lovely, although of course it would have been nicer if more trees and flowers had been in bloom. But the ones that were in bloom were gorgeous:

While we were walking around, I kept forgetting where we were. L.A.? Europe? The garden did a good job of making me feel like I was away.

Easter Parade

We had big plans to see this parade, but we got there too late. However, we still got to see a lot of people dressed up, especially in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

The parade inspired to maybe (emphasis on maybe) participate next year. Seems like all I’d need is a dress (check) and a great big hat with some flowers slapped on.


22
Apr 17

A birthday trip to Beacon

In case you don’t know, Beacon is a picturesque little town in Hudson Valley. Nearby is hiking and Storm King, but our destination that day was Dia, a big modern art museum.

Getting there

The MTA offers package deals of a Metro-North train ticket plus museum admission. We took the 9:43 train — and so did everyone else it seems. The train was pretty packed maybe because it was the Saturday before Easter and beautiful weather on top of that. But we were each able to get our own seats.

The ride was only supposed to be 90 minutes, but it took two hours because of delays.

Beacon Bread Company

By the time we got there, we were starving, or at least I was. After some back and forth, we settled on the Beacon Bread Company. The food ended up being really good (I got the Basic Breakfast with sausage patties) but it took forever. Upwards of 30 minutes. Later we figured out the town was slammed with visitors and the restaurants weren’t used to having so many people.

Zora Dora’s Micro Batch Ice Cream

For dessert we went to this artisan popsicle place. Sounds so obnoxious but it was really good. I had a cookies and cream, which was made with milk instead of ice cream and not super sugary.

Dia

Finally, Dia! The museum is in what was a Nabisco factory, and still has that feeling: big open, industrial spaces. The artwork is similar to how it used to be at the Whitney. Those enormous Richard Serra installations, those head-scratching Robert Smithson pieces (although the Spiral Jetty is one of my absolute favorites)

We also relaxed on the John Chamberlain couch installation, enjoyed the Louise Bourgeois sculptures

— and had a blast fooling around in Dan Flavin’s Untitled:

While the walk back to Main Street wasn’t long, we were glad for the cheap shuttle bus.

Denning’s Point Distillery

Ellen was kind enough to treat me to a tasting flight at this distillery. But the gins, whiskies, and bourbons were so strong, I could barely drink any and was pretty much drunk immediately. Yet I still had a cocktail (a Modern Mule, natch) with plenty of free popcorn to soak it up.

Glazed Over Donuts

After the distillery, we passed a couple with donuts. We asked if the place was still open, and they said they had just closed but to “try the side entrance.” We didn’t know what that meant, but sure enough the side door was still open.

Desperate we said we’d take any three donuts they had left. We ended up with — I can’t even remember, except that caramel, peanut butter, chocolate, and marshmallows were all involved.

The donuts were still warm so I had a couple of bites but saved the rest for a delectable breakfast the next morning.

Next up: Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and the Easter Parade.


21
Apr 17

NYC Adventures, April 2017: Eats and drinks

060806foodlove

My good friend Ellen was in town for Passover, which happened to be right before my birthday so I took advantage and had a fun-filled pre-birthday weekend, which, as always, involved a lot of eating, drinking, and museum-ing. First up, the eats.

Pennsy

Ellen had spent the day with her dad and was dropping him off at Penn Station so we met at Pennsy, the newish food court that’s in what used to be Borders.

While it’s certainly nicer than anything in Penn Station (although now there’s a Pret a Manger and a Magnolia Bakery), it still leaves a lot to be desired with only half a dozen choices.

I had an overpriced, mediocre cocktail (it should take longer than 30 seconds to mix one) and we shared yummy mac ‘n cheese appetizer from Pat LaFrieda.

Shanghai Mong

Next we walked to nearby Koreatown. Shanghai Mong is one of my favorite places for jajangmyeon. One order will set you back just $8.99, but we ended up spending a lot more than that.

Perhaps we got a bit too much food. We got the grilled jajangmyeon, the sweet and sour pork, and the dukbokki. We probably should have gotten just two out of those three dishes, although the leftover pork made a good snack over the next couple of days.

Tim Ho Wan

We’ve been talking about going to Tim Ho Wan for a while, and we finally made it bright and early the Friday before Easter.

Which seems to have been the right time to go. This dim sum place is the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant there is so there’s always a massive line. But our wait wasn’t bad. It opened at 10 and we got there about 9:40. While the vestibule was packed, we were the first people on line outside (and I was ferocious to anyone who tried to get in front of us). As soon as the doors opened, we were able to get a table.

Tim Ho Wan doesn’t have carts like other dim sum restaurants. You place your order and they bring it to you. Maybe that’s why it feels less chaotic. And the food certainly lives up to the hype. We got the roast pork buns, turnip cakes, shrimp dumplings, sticky rice, and some other dumplings.

My favorites were the roast pork buns:

I loved the savory meat in contrast with the slightly sweet pineapple outside. I also loved the turnip cakes, which were far more turnip than cake. But everything else was excellent too.

I would totally go again, even with the wait.

Brooklyn Ball Factory

By the name of this place, you’d have no idea that it’s Japanese. A find by our friend, Aki, the amateur concierge, it started in Williamsburg and opened a second location more recently in what they call Hell’s Kitchen, but let’s face it is Times Square.

They do a kind of modern take on onigiri, bento boxes, and dora-yaki. What do balls have to do with it? Their specialty are their meatballs, which were delicious.

Momosan Ramen & Sake

The night we came back from a day trip to Beacon (more on that later), we had a late dinner at Momosan (at Aki’s suggestion) near Grand Central.

The decor is very hip, but the prices are reasonable. I got the tonkotsu ramen for $11:

I thought they forgot my egg and without question they brought me one. Then I found my original egg under the seaweed. Oops! Oh well, a free egg with my birthday noodles.

The only downside was that our waitress was pretty snooty (not the one who brought my extra egg). There goes your 20% tip.

Pil Pil

Another Aki find. This tapas place isn’t too far from where I live. Plus! They have $3 beer and sangria during happy hour. We weren’t very hungry so a few tapas plates between the three of us was perfect. We got ham croquettes, a bacon and date thingie, and some kind of tostas, I forget which.

Next up: our trip to Beacon.

[Flickr photo: “060806foodlove” by Dan4th Nicholas, CC BY 2.0]