Feb 20

A very active weekend

My friend Ellen came to visit this past weekend, and as always we did a lot.

Mack & Mabel at the New York City Center

The main reason she came in was that she had a free ticket from her cousin for this show. I decided to go along since it was pretty cheap (about $35). On top of that, Ellen was kind enough to split my ticket with me.

The theater was absolutely gorgeous. I couldn’t stop taking pictures:

Originally called the Mecca Temple, the building seems to have been owned by the Shriners. What I noticed about the audience is that rather than tourists, it was full of New Yorkers. Plus it’s a great deal: Broadway-quality performances for $35! Although you might feel like you’re watching a show from the side of a mountain.

Which indeed I did at first. My fear of heights kicked in, and at first I so nervous, I had to turn sideways. But after the lights went down and the show started, I was fine.

The show was fun but also old-fashioned. The storytelling wasn’t subtle. But like I said the performances were first rate.


On another day we checked out this food festival in Brooklyn. I’ve been to the outdoor one once, and it was very crowded. Because it’s winter, now it’s indoors, and it wasn’t that bad, maybe because we got there kind of early.

It was pretty fun. There was a free whiskey tasting so of course we did that. For lunch I had the jianbing, the spicy version which was SO SPICY. Like I could barely eat it. Otherwise it was tasty. I also couldn’t resist a coconut donut. It was huge and delicious.

Then I made the mistake of getting a stout beer. Even though I split it with Ellen, it still gave me a headache. I know: I’m a lightweight.


We also had the chance to check out this newish museum. It’s a bit pricey at $28, but we figured it’s not like we’re going to go all the time. I especially liked the Tawny Chatmon exhibit, Inheritance:

Dec 19

Post-Christmas Christmas weekend

Leave it to my friend Aki to get a hankering to see Christmas trees after Christmas. Regardless it was a weekend full of fun and yummy activities.

The Deco Food + Drink

When she came into town on Saturday, the first thing we did of course was eat. This food hall just opened and we were curious to try it. It was just a soft open so not all the places were serving food, and others had run out since it was already about three. I made do with furikake french fries and the pork buns and tea eggs from my mom which I had brought. Shared those with Aki who in turn shared the wine she had brought.

American Museum of Natural History

First Christmas tree stop! The subway and museum were PACKED. It was insanity. However, right around the origami Christmas tree wasn’t too crowded. Something else we wanted to see was the blue whale, but there was a long line of people waiting to see it so we just peeked at it from afar and got the hell out of there.

New-York Historical Society

After that we went to the New-York Historical Society, That wasn’t too crowded and also pretty interesting. They had a Tiffany lamp exhibit, which was very beautiful. The Paul Revere exhibit was somewhat interesting, and most interesting to me was this timeline that showed when certain words originated. Aki liked it too.

NR – Cocktails and Ramen

After that we walked across the park to the east side. There was a new ramen place that Aki wanted to try. It’s actually Japanese cocktail slash ramen place (although I didn’t have a drink).

The ramen was really good.

Lotte New York Palace + Saks Fifth Avenue

After dinner we walked back down to midtown to see the Christmas tree at the Lotte New York Palace (which for the longest time I thought was the former site of Le Cirque, which of course it’s not):

We also went to Saks 5th Avenue. The light show seemed shorter this year compared to last year.

The Met + Grand Bazaar + Flor de Mayo + Saint John the Divine

Since I live on the Upper East Side, it’s pretty easy to walk across the park to get to the Upper West so that’s what we did on Sunday. On the way I had to pee. Since I’m a member at the Met and can bring a guest, we popped in there. Aki ended up adding another tree to her collection.

On the way to the flea market, we passed these other vendors on the sidewalk. Several of them had free samples. Potato chips, goat cheese, vodka, and bourbon. The vodka lady was superfriendly but the bourbon guy wasn’t. Oh well. The goat cheese was frigging delicious.

The flea market itself was just okay. I’m not into buying junk. They also had some food vendors, and we had more samples. One was a piece of a gluten-free oatmeal cookie, which was good, while another was this rum cake, which was DELICIOUS. Very moist. Totally should have bought a piece.

For lunch we went to Flora de Mayo, where we shared this sliced steak dish. The flavors were really nice, as well as the cilantro rice, but the meat was kind of chewy.

After lunch we headed up to Saint John the Divine.

We were surprised to find they now charge a $10 admission fee. However, at the front was a Christmas tree with origami cranes so at least we could see that.

Another tree added to Aki’s list.

Oct 19

Harry Potter and the amazing seats

I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. I’ve read all the books and seen all the movies. In fact I’m a little obsessed (although not dress-like-Gryffindor obsessed). Back in April, I splurged on tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as a birthday present to myself. They were pretty pricey — especially since the show is two parts — but I thought what the hey.

However, I almost immediately had buyer’s remorse. Of course nothing could be done about it at that point. They weren’t going to refund my tickets just because I had changed my mind. But then my mom ended up scheduling her cataract surgery for the very day of the show so I couldn’t go. I called, thinking I could reschedule, but they ended up refunding me and letting me reschedule at my leisure, which (ahem) I never did.

Luckily because I ended up having the chance to see the show for much cheaper, and with much better seats.

On Friday my younger cousin texted me asking if I wanted to join her, her husband, and brother for the show that Sunday for, get this, a total of $80. What I had paid was much more so um HELL YES. At the time I didn’t know one of her friends works near the theater and sometimes will stand on line, see what tickets he can get, and sell to them to his friends at cost. (What a nice guy!) I was extremely grateful to be able to reap the benefits.

The moment I got to the theater, I was excited:

And then even more so when we got to our seats! Unbeknownst to my cousin, we had box seats! Which means on of those balconies on the side with tons of leg room and not having to rub up against strangers. I’m spoiled forever.

The obligatory playbill shot:

In between the two shows, we got food a delicious udon place, Raku. I got the donburi bowl:

As for the show itself, I absolutely loved it. It paid some fan service, but why the hell not? And the special and practice effects were especially cool. I would totally see it again (especially for cheap box seats!).

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]