Oct 18

Tacos, Cloisters, old-fashioneds

When my friend Aki comes into the city, it means lots of fun activities and lots of eating.

Los Tacos No. 1

The first thing was lunch at this popular place which I somehow have never been to. There was a line but it moved quickly, and while the place was packed, we managed to get some stand-up bar space.

We each got two tacos, one pork and one chicken. They were GOOD and much spicier than I was expecting. Afterward I felt the need for a palate cleanser and got soft serve black sesame ice cream from Cafe Zaiya near Grand Central. That really hit the spot.

The Cloisters

Almost every year I check out the costume exhibit at the Met. This time it’s Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, and it’s a little different than previous ones. Instead of being contained in one area, it’s spread out through the Met —

— as well as the Cloisters, which is where Aki and I went last weekend.

It’s not easy to get up there, which is why I rarely go. Since it was the weekend, we waited forever for that particular subway, and then the ride itself was very slow. However, we made it.

The museum was crowded. It focuses on medieval art and is usually pretty empty, but because of the costume exhibit, which closes tomorrow, it was packed with a line out the door. We both thought there must be a separate one for members, and walked past the long line. Some snotty girl was like, “There’s a line guys,” and we were both like, “Uh we’re members.” Just to be sure, I asked the guard, “I’m a member but should I wait in that line first?” and he told me just to go to the register. In your face snotty girl!

Seeing the costumes amid the medieval and religious art and artifacts was very cool —

— but the hordes of people made it not so enjoyable. Luckily my membership got us in for free (well, free for Aki) so we could leave quickly without feeling like it was a waste.

An unexpected walk through the park

We decided to take the bus instead of the subway to my apartment since it was a direct shot — or at least I thought it was. Usually it stops right near me, but for some reason that day it ended pretty far northwest. So we took a subway partway down and walked across Central Park. Unfortunately again I miscalculated and we had to walk around the Reservoir. D’oh! At least it was a nice day.

By the time we got to my apartment we were extra pooped as well as hungry. We hung out drinking old-fashioneds and eating random food (cheese, crackers, cucumbers, sardines).

For dinner we decided to make something at home rather than go to a restaurant. Aki got the idea of getting sausages at Schaller’s Stube Sausage Bar. While they’ll cook sausage for you, you can also buy them uncooked from the butcher/market area, which is what we did. In addition to a few different kinds of sausages, we picked up some good rye bread and (randomly) a cucumber for a vegetable on the side. We grilled up the sausages, slapped some butter on the bread, sliced the cucumber, and had another old-fashioned each. It was pretty satisfying.

Mar 18

Random activities

Sometimes a day in New York means a bunch of random things.

Japan Week at Grand Central

My friend Yiannis wanted to check out Japan Week in Grand Central, so my other bud, Aki, who happened to be in town, and I met up with him. I was picturing a lot of Hello Kitty and other “kawaii” shit, but to be honest, it wasn’t that exciting. Although the “3D Trick Art” was kind of fun:

Another highlight was a can of sweetened matcha tea for a $1.

LIC Market + The Museum of the Moving Image

While Yiannis went off to his own devices, Aki and I schlepped out to Queens. We had been talking for ages about seeing the Jim Henson exhibit at the Museum of Moving Image, and we finally managed to get our butts out there.

However first was lunch. We went to LIC Market and it was excellent. They give baskets of not just bread but delicious pastries. My favorites were the zucchini bread and (hello!) chocolate croissant. My meal was the duck hash, which was delectable.

Next finally was the museum. While the exhibit was very kid-oriented, it was still enjoyable. There was one part that you could get filmed doing a puppet show. I found that surprisingly fun, like I wanted to keep doing it, and I thought, Am I secretly a puppeteer?

Hanging out + The Wrinkle in Time

After the museum, I was suddenly exhausted so we went to my apartment to hang out. On the way we stopped in my favorite liquor store and picked up a bottle of rose. Then we sat around chatting, drinking, and eating random snacks (cheese and crackers, sardines, a cucumber, a Kashi bar, and an apple) for two and a half hours.

I had movie plans with Yiannis while Aki went to meet her fiance and his coworkers at some bar. Did I mention it was St. Patrick’s Day? Unfortunate timing in an unfortunate part of town. The area was full of drunk revelers (mostly NYU students, I’m guessing).

I only semi-enjoyed Wrinkle in Time. The beginning, before they leave Earth to go find Meg’s father, was hokey. There was a lot of telling rather than showing. And I sort of hated that Mrs. Whatsit was immediately fabulous looking. In the book she shows up disheveled with a million scarves. That would have a lot more interesting: at first thinking she’s some crazy homeless lady, then building up to the fact that she’s a fantastic creature. Overall, I wanted something darker, like Harry Potter.

If I had been a drunk St. Patrick’s Day reveler, I might have felt differently.

Jan 18

In which I sing karaoke in public for the first time

My parents really like singing karaoke. In fact, I think it saved their marriage. But it was never something I got into. Not that I haven’t been roped into it from time to time, like when my mom forced me to sing “Save the Best for Last” (it was at my parents’ house and no one else was around so it was actually kind of enjoyable) or when I was living in China and my cousin and her friends pushed into warbling “My Heart Will Go On,” which was a complete disaster because a) it’s Celine Dion, and b) I had never sung it before. My cousin and her friends listened in horrid disbelief, as though they had expected by my sheer American-ness that I should have been able to sing this difficult American song.

My close friends are not karaoke fiends, except, that is, for Yiannis. Recently he and his sister have been hosting karaoke nights at a downtown bar, and while I’ll often go to have a drink, cheer people on, and be generally social, I’ve never sung.

Until last Sunday.

For some reason I had gotten it in my craw that I should sing karaoke in public at least once. in my life It even became a sort of 2018 goal. After trying a bunch of songs, I found one that seemed to be in my range: Anna Nalick’s “Breathe (2am).” I also thought, rather logically, that because I can’t carry a tune in a bucket that a rap song would up my alley. Hence, Kanye West’s “Gold Digger.”

I practiced both songs a lot, having finally learned that practice makes perfect. Still I was nervous. I almost chickened out. But because it was Yiannis’s birthday, I powered through it.

My first song was “Breathe (2am),” luckily because people weren’t really paying attention. Although I knew the lyrics and rhythm (which took me a while to learn), I felt off. I think maybe the lyrics are not quite the right speed at that particular bar, but who knows? However, when I finished no one seemed to notice, which again was dandy by me.

It felt like such a huge accomplishment, not to mention a big relief, to have finally sung that I didn’t even feel a need to sing “Gold Digger.” But a little part of me wanted to. Maybe it was the adrenaline. Maybe because it’s a great song. Either way, I found myself filling out a card and handing it to the bartender.

By the time my turn came up again, the place was much fuller, and when people saw what song I was doing, they seemed to get excited. Again, I felt off with the lyrics and totally screwed up a couple of verses, but surprisingly people seemed impressed. When I got verses correct, there was some cheering, and when I finished there was even more. A couple of guys were like, “That was incredible!” and “That was amazing!” Needless to say I was very, very surprised because I didn’t think I was very good compared to my practice sessions.

I had such an adrenaline rush afterward, I could barely pay attention to the conversation I was having with one of Yiannis’s friends. Then later, on the train, I couldn’t even pay attention to the podcast. I just kept reliving my “performance.”

But whether or not I’ll sing in public again is a whole other story.

Nov 17

Bat mitzvahs are even better with open bars

When I was a kid in New Jersey, I loved going to bat mitzvahs. I went to three (which is kind of a lot for a non-Jewish person) and enjoyed every one. The dressing up, the food, the music, and the goodie bag. Last weekend was no different —

— except that I’m an adult and there was an open bar. Score!

Oct 17

Spider-Man photoshoot and Cuban-Chinese food

Today was an active day with a Spider-Man photshoot, lots of food, and even more walking.

Spider-Man meets Spider Kid at Alexander and Bonin

I may have mentioned my friend Yiannis enjoys dressing up in his rabbit and Spider-Man costumes and getting me to take his picture in public places such as in front of the Eiffel Tower and, well, in front of the Eiffel Tower.

I’m always hella embarrassed to be walking in public with Yiannis-in-costume, and yet I still felt the need to tell him about an exhibit at Alexander and Bonin that included a Spider Kid.

Cider tasting, pickles, and Cuban Chinese

After the photoshoot, I met up with my friend Aki. We schlepped over to the Lower East Side to check out a cider tasting (unfortunately I don’t remember the place). It was incredibly crowded, to the point that we had to wait outside. However, the crowd turned out to be one group of about 10 girls. Once they left, it was much better. The cider was yummy.

Next we checked out The Pickle Guys

— and then headed uptown and got some drinks and appetizers at a Cuban-Chinese place called Calle Dao.

The place was super-cute. Since it was happy hour, ther drinks were just $8 (I got a sangria while Aki got a strong Brazilian rum drink) and bites for the same price. She chose the wings while I had the dumplings. While the wings were a good choice for $8 (there were seven), the dumplings were a rip-off. There were three, count ’em, THREE dumplings for almost $10. They were tasty, as were the wings, but still.

And yet I would probably go back.

Oct 17

Food, walking, more food

An unseasonably warm day in New York (hello, climate change!) often means my friend Aki comes into town, which is great because she always has fun ideas for where to go and, most of all, yummy food to eat.

Fried chicken, waffles, and matcha tea ice cream

First up was lunch at Root & Bone, a southern place on the Lower East Side. To avoid the long wait, we sat at the bar and ended up splitting half a fried chicken with waffles. SO GOOD.

Somehow afterward we had room for dessert. Aki discovered a matcha tea place nearby, which also had cookies and ice cream (unfortunately I can’t remember the name of it). I got a single of a black sesame and she got the matcha ice cream. They were both really good.

A schlep out to Brooklyn

We had tons of food to walk off so we ended up schlepping across the bridge into Brooklyn. We promptly stumbled into Domino Park at the foot of the old Domino Sugar factory. It was extremely hip. Here I am looking a bit disdainful at the hipness.

Suddenly we both really wanted sangria, which sent us on bit of a wild goose chase. Long story short, the place Aki found needed reservations, but we didn’t know until after the long walk there. Wah wah wah.

Since we were nearby and it was free, we ended up popping into BLDG 92. It was quite fun and interesting. We also used the bathroom and partook of their free water cooler in the lobby, guzzling a couple of cups of wonderfully ice cold water, which really hit the spot after so much walking on a warm and humid day.

Our final stop was dinner at an Italian place Aki found not too far away (again, can’t remember the name). Whatever it was called, it was a good choice. She had pizza while I had linguine with bolognese sauce. It was SO GOOD. I inhaled the entire thing along with some bread.

Back to the diet on Monday.

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]

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.

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.

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.


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.