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.


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.


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.


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]


01
Apr 17

Los Angeles 2017: Eats and drinks

The only activities that rival visiting museums when I travel is trying new eats and drinks.

Porto’s Bakery and Cafe

On my first day, my brother and I had lunch at this popular Cuban place. And I do mean popular. It was maybe 11:30 when we got there and already a madhouse. However, the line moved quickly.

I had a milanese chicken sandwich, which was very tasty. We also got some pastries and potato balls to go, all of which were awesome.

Grand Central Market

I went to this food court three times. The first was with my brother on a weekday. It wasn’t nearly as crowded as I was expecting. I got a yummy sausage hash from Berlin Currywurst. I didn’t pay attention to the name of the place so I was surprised when the sauce tasted like Japanese curry.

The only thing I didn’t like was the way the guy seemed to try to trick people into getting fries. After I said yes, I realized it was $5 extra and changed my mind. Ditto with the guy behind me.

My brother got pupusas. Again, delicious.

The second time I went to Grand Central Market was with my buds. First we hit G&B Coffee where one friend had a cappuccino, another had a tumeric/ginger macadamia milk, and I had a almond macadamia latte. The milk was tasty but my latte was really good and strong.

Next was Eggslut (which, by the way, arrived in New York just days after we came back). The line was long but not insane. I got the sausage, egg, and cheese, which was amazing, and we shared a delectable biscuit.

My third time at Grand Central Market, we hit G&B Coffee and Eggslut again. I got the same things at both, and this time, since we got there at about 8:30, there was almost no line at Eggslut. My friend got the signature “slut,” a coddled egg on top of what is essentially mashed potatoes. It lived up to the hype.

At home

While eating out is fun, sometimes a home cooked meal hits the spot. So I was really happy when my sister-in-law made a lovely Korean dinner.

Not shown was a flavorful broth, chock full of umami. The next day I scarfed down the rest of the broth, plus most of the salmon.

Salt & Straw

If you’re wondering if I gained weight on this trip, unfortunately I did. Fortunately however I got to try the incredible ice cream from Salt & Straw. I had what they called the cinnamon roll, which pretty much tasted just like one in ice cream form.

Marvin

My mom was kind enough to treat my brother, sister-in-law, and me to a nice dinner. Our choice was this lovely French bistro. For an appetizer we had the jamon tomato toast, and for entrees my brother got the steak while my sister-in-law and I both got the rigatoni with Bolognese sauce. The food was really good but the service was weird. For some reason we had two waitresses. One was nice but the other was snotty. Otherwise, it was a nice dinner.

Normandie Club

After dinner at Marvin, we tried to go to karaoke. But everywhere was too expensive. So we got cocktails at this cool kind of retro bar. I can’t remember exactly what I had, except it had mezcal, tasted good, and got me pretty drunk, especially after the wine at dinner.

Angel City Brewery

While my friends and I were in the Arts District, we stopped here for a beer tasting, but not before trying on some angel wings.

We got a flight, of which I thought I’d have a sip of each, wince, and be done with it. But, surprise, surprise, I liked two of the beers, the ones on the right.

I can’t remember what they were, only that the dark one tasted of coffee and chocolate and the light one was a like a less briny pickle juice. In other words, neither tasted like beer.

Wurstküche

After hitting Angel City and another brewery, we came to this gourmet sausage place. The line went down the street, which told us the place was popular but I was wary about the wait. We took a chance and the line moved pretty quickly. I kept changing my mind. Hot Italian? Filipino maharlika? Straight-up kielbasa? I ended up choosing the chicken sausage with jalapeno and mango, and I didn’t regret it.

Mr. Holmes Bakehouse

The home of the cruffin, part croissant, part muffin. One of my friends said they usually sell out of the cruffins by noon. We were there around 10 and there were cruffins galore! I got three (for myself, my brother, and sister-in-law since I was going to their place later that day) and a couple of donuts. My brother and I split a cruffin. Not only was it all muffiny and croissanty, there was a delicious filling. It reminded of me that amazing blueberry muffin I had in Barcelona at the Catalonian art museum.

Stout

We spent part of a day in Santa Monica, which was fairly easy to get to. We hopped on an express bus that took about an hour and cost only $2.75.

After battling the wind on the beach, we came here for their early bird special: everything on the menu half off between five and six. I got the Stout Burger “skinny style,” meaning no bun, just greens. The burger and toppings were really good, but the greens were drenched in some kind of lemon dressing, which was way too much for my sensitive teeth. If I ever go back, I won’t do the skinny, or will ask for the dressing on the side.

The Misfit Bar

Next was happy hour. At first we decided against this bar because it was so crowded. We walked a little but then realized the other bars were far away. Plus my friend said the Misfit had “the best happy hour in Santa Monica.” When we returned, a few seats had opened up. I had a cocktail called the Jumping Jack Flash (Old Forester bourbon, Cocchi vermouth, ginger, and mint) which got me good and tipsy.

Beards are still apparently a big thing in Santa Monica and L.A.: all the Misfit bartenders had them, as well as random guys in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, back in New York, I feel like they’ve peaked and are fading out.

Nanbankan

For my last night, my brother and sister-in-law took me to this yakitori place. Like everything I ate in L.A., it was delicious. My favorites were the tsukune, or chicken meatballs, the pork sausage, and the okra.

Want more L.A.? Check out my earlier posts on museums and other random activities.


05
Jan 17

NYC Adventures: 2016 Holiday Edition

While last year I went out of town, this holiday season out-of-towners came to me, which meant I got to see some New York sights I’d never seen before, and a few I hadn’t visited in a while.

The United Nations

United Nations

[Photo by Paul VanDerWerf, CC BY 2.0]

I worked near the United Nations for 10 years but never went inside. Last week was my first time. My friend Motoko from Tokyo and her son wanted a tour, and Ellen, my buddy in Boston, was kind enough to arrange it and to, of course, join in on the fun.

You have to go through quite a bit of security before getting inside. No wonder they ask you to get there an hour before your tour time. You check in at one location, wait in line at the main location, then put your stuff through metal detectors and go through a full body scan, just like at the airport. It was so similar, some people were about to take their shoes off.

Once you get inside, it’s worth it. The lobby is beautiful. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures. That’s what I get for not having much memory on my phone.

The tour was interesting, but because I was sleep deprived, I didn’t retain much of it. What I do remember was the guide was credentialed up the wazoo. She spoke three languages (English, Japanese, and Spanish), had a master’s degree in international relations, and was fluent in English despite having come from Japan just two years ago.

She was also nice enough to translate for Motoko’s son, although that wouldn’t have happened if Motoko hadn’t noticed her Japanese name, or if Ellen hadn’t asked her to translate in the first place.

Grand Central Oyster Bar

I’ve been to the Grand Central Oyster Bar a couple of times before, but it’s been several years since my last visit.

The Oyster Bar, Grand Central Terminal, New York City

[Photo by Jazz Guy, CC BY 2.0]

That’s not my picture of the bar although we sat at the bar.

What I love about the place is that it’s a mixed crowd. You have tourists but you also have working stiffs who want to get away from their desks for 40 minutes and enjoy some delicious clam chowder.

Which is what I had. Tasty and filling and only $7.

The Met

Of course I’ve been to the Met a hundred times, but what I’d never seen before was a line that long. How long? It went out the door, down the stairs, and onto the sidewalk. It was a perfect storm of the early afternoon, the holidays and a chilly, steady rain.

Little do the hoi polloi know, there’s a semi-secret side entrance which is a million times less crowded. Another friend showed it to me and Ellen long ago, and it’s the only entrance I’ve used ever since.

Still, that didn’t keep the rest of the museum from being mobbed, especially the Impressionist wing. Our guests lasted half a dozen Monets, Degas, and Seurats before we took refuge in the cafeteria.

Peter Luger Steak House

A great thing about out-of-town visitors, besides the company of course, is that I end up doing things I never would have on my own. Such as dinner at Peter Luger.

If you want an old school New York experience and don’t mind spending a little dough, you’ll love Peter Luger. Perhaps its Brooklyn location has something to do with it, but I felt like everyone — the managers, the waiters, even the other diners — had walked straight out of some movie about NYC.

And the food was good too. We started with sliced tomatoes and onions, which is literally just that. What makes the dish is their sauce, similar to cocktail sauce but not tomato-y. We also got a single (massive) slab of bacon.

Unfortunately by the time our 16 ounce steaks came, I wasn’t that hungry, and could barely make a dent, although I had no problem finishing off our sides of creamed spinach and German fried potatoes, which were similar to hash browns.

It came out to about $80 per person including tax and tip, which may seem steep, but with all the leftovers and the experience itself, it was worth it.

Corner Cafe & Bakery

I’ve been wanting to try this place since I moved into my neighborhood little more than a year ago. New Year’s Eve morning, I finally did, and it didn’t disappoint.

I got the Southern breakfast.

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

That’s three eggs, bacon, potatoes, a corn muffin, and fried green tomatoes with remoulade sauce. A delectable way to finish out 2016.

InterContinental Barclay Hotel

Something else I don’t usually do is go out on New Year’s Eve. To me NYE is basically SantaCon without the Santa suits. But this year I found myself out and about, and I have to admit, it was a nice change of pace.

After helping Motoko pick up some provisions for her feverish son, Ellen and I ended up spending a relaxing afternoon at Motoko’s beautiful hotel.

While we charged our phones at the bar, we each got an old fashioned.

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

It was very well made, and I got sufficiently tipsy. Plus the bartender was very nice and didn’t make us feel rushed.

I’d definitely return to the InterContinental Barclay bar just to have a drink and hang out.

Times Square on New Year’s Eve

Our relaxing afternoon came to an end when we headed out to meet our friend Aki. She and her boyfriend had a party later and were staying at a hotel for the night. Unfortunately that hotel was right near Times Square.

Getting from Midtown East to Midtown West on New Year’s Eve was like trying to climb over the Berlin Wall. But climb over it we did, mostly due to Ellen’s persistence. Like Aki said, I was about to call it a night when Ellen finally found a cop who let us through the barricades.

The hotel itself was pretty relaxing. We ended up eating discounted happy hour snacks in the lounge instead of trying to find a restaurant. The food hit the spot. Wings, pita and hummus, quesadillas, and a pizza-like flatbread.

At about 8:30 I made Ellen leave. The last thing I wanted was to be stuck in that part of town close to midnight. We walked Aki and her boyfriend partway to their party and grabbed a cab at Columbus Circle. By nine, we were in PJs and watching Orange Is the New Black, my kind of NYE. I was happy that Ellen was so accommodating.

Pure Thai Cookhouse

The next day we headed back to the west side and had our first lunch of 2017. Pure Thai Cookhouse was an Aki find. It was packed but didn’t seem touristy, an excellent combination.

I got the special, a beef dish in a mildly spicy curry paste with a fried egg.

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

A yummy start to the new year.

Here’s hoping that every day of 2017 is as delicious.


25
Sep 16

Paris 2016: Food and drink

Neck and neck with my obsession with museums when I travel is that with food. Maybe especially food at museums.

Museum cafes

It all started with my best high school buddy. We had traveled together in China, but it was in Amsterdam that we started hitting the museum cafe before the actual museum. I remember waiting in line for the Rijksmuseum to open, dying for coffee, and making a beeline for the cafeteria. Soon it became a tradition.

Nowadays the museum cafe isn’t always first, but I usually end up there at some point.

During our first visit to Palais de Tokyo, we just had some drinks. I was craving an apple juice, and struggled with asking for one. Luckily the girl behind the counter spoke a little English and was able to explain that the drink was almond and apple, as well as carbonated.

“Carbonated,” she should have said. It was extremely subtle. The almond was less so but it was delicious all the same.

We returned to Palais de Tokyo because we were in the area and to partake of their photo booth. This time we had lunch. I was looking forward to a jambon beurre (not that I hadn’t had a few already). But they didn’t have any so I settled for tuna.

Which was really good. That and British salt and vinegar chips, and a fantastic vanilla panna cotta made for a quick yet yummy meal.

Next, the Musee D’Orsay. Last time when we went, I didn’t enjoy my sandwich. The bread sucked, surprisingly. This time we had already eaten so I just got a chocolate-caramel brownie. Holy cow. It was almost like flourless chocolate cake. Delicious.

The only museums I didn’t eat at were the Cartier Foundation (I wasn’t hungry for a change) and the  Musée Jacquemart-André. The restaurant was more upscale than I wanted. So instead we went to…

Random places

this place. We had passed it on the way to the museum, and we figured since we might not be getting a lot of fresh vegetables during our stay, it would be a good choice.

And it was! It was a bit like Chop’t only without the chopping. I got an Asian type salad with tuna, which was tasty and filling. My only disappointment was my “dessert.” I got a fromage blanc, which was definitely not dessert-like, at least not to me.

Another sort of random place we ate at was a cafe not far from the Catacombs. A couple of my friend’s friends happened to be in town, and after a visit to the boney undergrounds, we stopped for an impromptu, al fresco lunch.

I had a little arugula salad and the “hamburger,” which came without a bun and lots of fries. So good. Complimentary were little glasses of red wine mixed with soda (at least I think that’s what it was). Delicious all around and lovely to eat outside and enjoy the day.

Soya

One of the few vegetarian places in Paris, Soya is one of our favorite haunts. Vegetarian, you might be thinking? But I’m a total carnivore. That’s true, but my friend isn’t, and the food at Soya is really good.

We were introduced to it by a friend of a friend during our first visit. At that time we had a very angry waitress who practically threw a water bottle at us. Since then the waitstaff has been very nice.

This time I think I might have gotten the same dish as last time. A vegetable masala curry. The sauce was amazing and the vegetables very fresh. it was quite filling. For dessert we got lemon and fig tarts. I wasn’t in the mood for fig, but the lemon was delicious.

Eating our way through the 2nd arrondissement

I had two things I wanted to get: a Paris Starbucks mug (which I got on our first day) and nonnettes au miel. Last year I randomly bought a package, needing a gift for my parents, and they turned out to be amazing. The ones I got were orange flavored, and that combined with the gingery, delicate cake made me want more. The thing is they’re so French you can’t even get them off Amazon.

I thought during my walks I’d discover some little shop with my beloved nonnettes. No such luck. I didn’t think we’d ever find the original store, but of course my friend had noted the name during our last visit. It’s actually a wine and liquor shop with a limited selection of foods. They didn’t have any nonnettes unfortunately, but I picked up some hazelnut and chocolate wafers.

The block was full of little food and beverage stores. While my friend paid for his purchases (all sorts of interesting flavors of tonic waters), I popped into a coffee shop next door — and guess what, they had the nonnettes! I bought two packages, one for my parents and one for myself, along with a pound of Cuban coffee.

For lunch we at at Kapunka, a Thai place. I had a beef curry dish. While the sauce was really good, the meat was a bit tough. Probably should have gone with the chicken.

After that it was dessert at L’Eclair de Genie, which we had seen earlier.

Éclair selfie obligatoire. #éclair #LÉclairDeGenie #selfie #aGaymericanInParis #cremeCenter

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They were smaller than eclairs in America — in other words, the perfect size. I got a super-chocolately one, and it was super-good.

After a bit more walking around, we popped into this cookie shop, Jean Hwang Carrant Simply Extraordinary Cookies. And guess what, Jean Hwang was there and she turned out to be a Chinese American from Kansas! We had a nice little chat with her. I got the last of their best-seller, black sesame, which was very subtly sweet, just the way I like it.

Grand Train

The one Saturday I was there, we had the chance to go with my friend’s friend to this place called Grand Train.

Grand Train is a former railway station with a variety food and drink kiosks and counters. It’s also a place where people, including families with little kids, hang out, talk, and, because this is France, smoke.

It’s very popular and there was a huge line when we got there. Luckily my friend’s friend was already there so we didn’t have to wait long. I didn’t try any food although we did get a bottle of white wine. It was sweet, the way I like it, and I drank too much too quickly. While tipsy, I felt perfectly fine — that is until we were standing in line for my friend’s pizza. Suddenly I felt, let’s just say, unwell. But with some deep breathing and a fruity lozenge, I was okay.

Next up: random sights!


25
Jun 16

A molten day on Mohonk

Hiking is something I enjoy but don’t have the opportunity to do that often. So when my friend Aki invited me to go for a trek on the Mohonk Preserve, I jumped at the chance.

Cafe Mio

First though, some pre-hike sustenance. We had lunch at this place in Gardiner, New York. I got the eggs over corned beef hash:

Yum!

Mohonk Preserve

Turns out I really need that fuel because the hike turned out to be pretty grueling, especially in the heat.

First, a little about the preserve. It’s 8,000 acres in the Shawagunk Ridge (nicknamed the Gunks), which is part of the Appalachians. Nearby is the Mohonk Mountain House, an amazing looking spa and resort.

Back to the hike. At least two other times Aki has said we were going hiking, and we ended up not hiking. So I thought this was one of those times, and as a result, I dressed completely inappropriately: dress, Keds, purse. The only right thing I did was wear a hat and sunglasses.

We hiked about three miles, much of it uphill. Despite my non-hiking gear, I did okay (all that running, I suppose), although Aki left everyone in the dust.

Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery

After our strenuous excursion, we were rewarded with a trip to this distillery. Along with a couple of the guys, I tried a flight of their spirits, one of which was basically making your own mini Old Fashioned with their yummy Basement Bitters. Needless to say, I got pretty tipsy.

Saigon Kitchen

Our last stop was this pho restaurant in Fort Lee. Exhausted, hot, starving, and slightly drunk, it was the perfect way to end the day. I had the seafood noodle soup:

It was sooo good, especially the broth, which was positively delectable. Even Aki the picky eater liked it and in fact finished what I couldn’t.

Check out all my New York adventures.


07
Feb 16

NYC Adventures: The Lunar New Year Edition

I don’t usually do much for the Lunar New Year, but this year a weekend visit from my friend Aki happened to coincide with the festivities.

Friday night

First thing: noodles! This time at Mew Men in the Village.

Eating long noodles during the New Year and on birthdays is important in Chinese culture since long noodles symbolize longevity. But mostly we had them because we’re ramen fiends.

The pork was kind of tough, but the broth and noodles were excellent. Plus each was only $5 with a coupon Aki had.

Afterward we walked up to Union Square and stopped in Korean beauty product store Nature Republic. We both ended up buying this Korean version of Baby Feet, that feet peeling kit. I’m kind of scared to try it since the results, while effective, are supposed to be disgusting.

Saturday

We had a very packed day ahead and needed to start it with some sustenance. Blue Stone Lane to the rescue.

While overpriced, I do think their food and coffee is really good. Usually I get the avocado toast, but I felt like changing things up and had the soup instead – lentil Italian wedding. It was so good, as was the toasted bread that came with it. And when we left, I couldn’t resist a $5 vegan apple cinnamon donut for a snack later (that was delicious too).

Our next stop was The Met, where there was lion dancing:

Like most things you do on the New Year, lion dancing is supposed to bring luck and chase away evil spirits. Plus it just looks and sounds really cool. The lobby was packed to the gills, but we had a pretty good view.

Besides lion dancing, we checked out the Temple of Dendur, then went upstairs to see it from the Asian art wing.

Next up: lunch! Aki had heard that the best xiao long bao in the city were at Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao in Flushing. So out to Queens we went.

There were tons of people waiting. They told us about 20 minutes, and that’s what it was. We got dou jiang, one youtiao to split, and pork and crab and pork buns.

Pork and crab soup dumplings #nanxianglongbao @bangbangcloud @joeboy369 #flushing #queens

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The verdict? I don’t know if they’re the best in the city since I haven’t had all the little juicy buns in New York, but they were damned good and well worth the schlep and the wait.

After lunch we went to New World Mall. It was a tad overwhelming, and since neither of us were hungry, it was kind of a waste on us. I’ll have to go back on an empty stomach.

Our last stop of the night was, you guessed it, food! We hit another ramen place, Nakamura, this one on the Lower East Side.

I wasn’t too thrilled about it at first, to be honest. Although there were a ton of empty seats, we were told we had to wait 30 minutes (I guess there were reservations?). And the fact that the waiter was wearing a fedora didn’t help matters. I wanted to leave, but Aki convinced me not to.

In the end, I’m glad we stayed because the food was really good. Aki, who’s super picky, pronounced it one of the best bowls of ramen she’s ever had.

I absolutely loved my Japanese curried spice ramen.

It also had something a little different: cilantro, which Japanese food never has.

Sunday

Aki was all set to leave that morning when she said, “I want bagels.”

I couldn’t argue with that.

We went to a place not too far from my apartment, H&H Bagels (which doesn’t have a website, weirdly enough). There was a line, but it wasn’t too crazy. I got my usual sesame bagel with lox spread.

Aki got a sesame bagel with nothing on it, figuring I’d have more than enough cream cheese, which was true.

The bagel was really good. I ate mine in about five minutes, Aki said, which is a bit of an exaggeration. But I did eat it quickly.

Interested in more of my New York adventures? Check them all out.