Sure, there was the Thanksgiving feast (read: Mongolian hot pot) at home, but there was also much ingesting and imbibing with friends in New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia.
Xi’An Famous Foods
I met up with my college roommate Sandy for lunch in the city. Besides an alma mater, we also share a love for Chinese good. So I was thrilled to learn a Xi’An Famous Foods had opened in her neighborhood on the Upper East Side.
I first heard about the restaurant from Anthony Bourdain, which is almost always a guarantee of good food. I got the oxtail noodle soup.
Looks great right? Well, unfortunately looks was all it had. No, that’s not entirely true. The flavor was good, but it was lukewarm. Maybe the servers, who were all white, didn’t know that noodle soup has to be burn-your-mouth-hot. Then again, doesn’t any soup? So I was pretty disappointed. At least the company was good.
I also had the chance to see and stay with my friend Yiannis. One night, craving something sweet, we stopped in ChikaLicious.
While it might sound like a chicken place, it’s actually a dessert bar — New York’s first, according to the website. Also according to their site, the line sometimes goes out the door, but that Saturday before Thanksgiving, there was no wait.
I noticed a dough’ssant in the wild —
— before settling on the banana custard pie.
One morning Yiannis and I met up with his sister and her friends for her birthday breakfast. One of her favorite places is Sweet Science in Brooklyn, and with good reason.
I got the biscuits with sausage gravy and bacon:
Decadent and delicious!
Amalthea Cellars and Sharrott Wineries
Good times were also to be had in my home state. My friend Ellen was also visiting for Thanksgiving, and we met up with our other friend Aki, who lives in New Jersey. She and her fiance had to drive one of their friends to Philadelphia so she suggested a couple of wineries along the way.
I’ve never been to a wine tasting before and thought I wouldn’t be that into it since I’m not a fan of wine. But it was actually really fun. The combination of the small amounts with a wide variety was perfect for me. Plus! I never knew wine could be sweet. All I knew about were the very dry ones. Turns out I love sweet wine.
Our first stop, Amalthea Cellars, offered 11 different tastings for $6, plus a little tour of the place. I thought the Leda, a “dry ‘travel style’ rose” with “notes of strawberry,” according to the info sheet, was so pretty:
Although for some reason the tour guide looked right at me when he said it “goes well with Chinese food.” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ My favorite was the Callisto Gris, a “bright red apple and strawberry notes.” Of course it was sweet.
The second place was Sharrott Winery, which offered six tastings for $12 plus snacks. By that time I was pretty tipsy, as was this big group of loud ladies who were traveling by bus from winery to winery. (We had a designated driver in Aki’s very kind and patient fiance.)
Hiro Ramen House
Our next stop was Philadelphia and a ramen dinner. Hiro Ramen House is apparently the place to be. We had a 20-minute wait, but it was totally worth it. For appetizers we got the karaage, or fried chicken, and takoyaki, octopus balls:
I got the spicy ramen, which really hit the spot post-wine tastings.
All good things must come to an end. To close out my visit, my mom and I had a goodbye lunch at one of our local favorites, Lotus Garden. It’s not bad for central Jersey, and seems authentic, if only because it’s usually packed with Chinese people. I got the beef noodle soup:
Not as good as Mom’s but better than Xi’An Famous Foods, I have to say.
Until next time!