Category Archives: International Food Tour

Yum Cha Wishes and Dim Sum Dreams

I arrived in Hong Kong late Monday evening, my limbs aching from the 16 hour flight and my vision blurry from my in-flight Oscar nominations marathon. My mom had sprung an impromptu trip at the end of my sister’s visit to Japan and I simply refused to be left out. I expected some major jet lag with the 12 time difference, but upon touch down I was too excited to care. It was my first time in what is often hailed as one of the best cities in the world, and with one of the best food scenes at that! I may or may have not flown across the world just for the food… my mouth was watering before I even got on the airport shuttle.  For those of you that may not know, Hong Kong is a “special administrative region” of China, which means that its not part of the mainland China but it still falls under its sovereignty (it was under British control under about the mid ’90s.) So it has its own currency — the colorful Hong Kong dollars — and also a lot of Western influence. The other special administrative region is Macau, which we’ll get to later.

Hong Kong indeed is pretty impressive. I was surprised at the sheer number of skyscrapers, both commercial and residential, that were packed into such a small section of land. Perhaps I’m too used to NYC’s skyscrapers to notice them anymore, but HK seemed much more dense at first glance. And of course, let’s not forget about all the millions of people out and about, which may explain why the culture includes walking fast and cutting others off when necessary. Ahh, I feel more at home already. Oh, can I just comment on the absurd number of shopping malls everywhere? At least it helps me better understand where China gets its obsession with luxury goods. Too bad the prices are far more expensive than back home. ::sigh::

While I’m super excited to get to the local cuisine, I will hold off (briefly) to point out some awesome sights to check out if you find yourself in HK for a few days. While we stayed in one of the more touristy parts of town on the Kowloon side, we managed to cover quite a bit of ground all over:

The Big Buddha on Lantau Island: This was probably my favorite non-foodie part of the trip. It includes a cable car (spring for the glass bottom one) that takes you up into the hills. The big tourist attraction there is the Big Buddha, but there are tons of hiking trails and you can also take buses to Tai O, Hong Kong’s oldest fishing village (see below for one of its storefronts.) The view from the cable car is pretty cool, too. Tip: If you decide to go, purchase cable car tickets online in advance. We were able to cut the line with ours, which probably saved us a good two hours of waiting.

The Markets: If you are a street vendor type of person (I’m talking to you, Noelle!) you would find paradise within Hong Kong’s many markets. There’s the Ladies Market, the Fa Yuen Street Market, the Goldfish Market, the Flower Market… let’s just say you have options. Some of these markets have pop up booths while others are actual stores, and I personally found that the Goldfish Market or Flower Market to be more interesting than others.

Victoria’s Peak: Victoria’s Peak is on the Hong Kong island side and is reachable by bus, gondola or good ‘ol fashioned taxi. We actually went for the hiking, although we soon found that the actual “trail” was more of a flat path. That being said, the walk provided some amazing views of Hong Kong from above as well as some exotic trees and plants on the walk for all you nature lovers. The area up top also has some stores (shocker) and a few look out points closer to where the buses drop you off.

Sky bar at the Ritz Carlton: Perfect for ending a day of sightseeing with a cocktail and a view. I hear the Four Seasons also has a great view from its dim sum restaurant. Tip: Stay on the bottom floor at the Ritz if you want to catch a great view of the sunset as the view from the rooftop is blocked.

Other mentionables worth checking out: Chi Lin Nunnery (Buddhist temple), Avenue of the Stars boardwalk, the Star Ferry and Dragon’s Back hiking trail. I’m sure I am missing so many other nuggets, which will have to wait for next time!

 

 

Ok, now for the other part of Hong Kong’s amazing culture: The Food! It was definitely a dim sum party for the Mony’s during our week there, but we also made time for other delectables like soup dumplings, peking duck, and even some tea time. My tummy was the happiest it’s ever been — here’s the low down on where to go:

Dim Sum at Tim Ho Wan: The most talked about and arguably best dim sum in Hong Kong, this Michelin-star restaurant chain doles out the most amazing pork buns I’ve ever had in my life. You would never realize its high rating though at first glance; not only is it a no-frills type of place but each plate of dim sum is about $2 each. The secret is definitely out though since many of its locations come with an hour (or two) wait, but we went to the Sham Shui Po location which is in a less touristy area and got seated right away. Note: I should also mention that there was some discrepancy as to if all the locations had Michelin stars or only some, but this one definitely does (if anyone knows this btw, please share!) That being said, if you want a fix before hopping on a flight out of HK (or maybe first thing upon arrival) there’s a restaurant right next to the airport shuttle at the IFC mall in Central.

Soup Dumplings at Crystal Jade: My sister and I are big fans of xiaolongbao, aka soup dumplings, and so we did our research to find this place. The soup dumplings and the rest of our meal (including this phenomenal chili oil dumpling dish!) was absolutely delicious.

More Soup Dumplings at Din Tai Fung: Couldn’t resist adding this one, another affordable michelin-star restaurant with awesome food. Tip: If you have room to spare at the end of the meal, definitely get the sesame and red bean buns for dessert. Delicious!

Peking Duck at Spring Deer: Diner beware, only come here if you are ready to stuff yourself silly. This restaurant is a favorite among locals and a reservation is best, so if you do manage to get a seat you better be prepared to eat your fill. The duck here is brought to you whole and sliced up before your eyes at your table. I know we ordered other dishes but I was so happy with the duck (in all its fatty glory) that I don’t even remember anything else. Sure, its probably not healthy to have duck all the time but if there’s a time to break the diet it has to be when you’re here.

Afternoon Tea at The Peninsula: While this wasn’t exactly something I expected to do while in Hong Kong, having tea and fancy little finger sandwiches at The Peninsula was pretty great. Granted, it was pricey for what it was, but the ambiance was so nice and it was a great way to relax with my mom and sis after a long day. Being a tourist, tough life.

As its pretty obvious, the food was my favorite part of the experience. I also really liked how many expats live here – probably a good number working at the big financial companies. As for the bad, I was pretty sad to see how much smog was in the air but I guess thats to be expected with the number of people crammed in. Lower your carbon footprint already, HK!

 

Next up, an overnighter in Macau…

 

Books read:
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood for Education and Was Shot By The Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

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Sleepless in Slovenia

This marks my 200th post since I first started this blog. Can’t believe how much I have learned and experienced all because I made some bold changes to go after what I really want. I’ve also been really inspired watching some friends and family go against the grain in order to pursue their passions. It just goes to show that we all have that drive and ability in us to change things up if we want to, we just have to take the first steps. 

 

“Your life always has a Plan B.” – Robert

I met Robert almost one year ago when I was working at Projective Space. He and his friends had a start up and were working out of the space, and we instantly bonded over our love of football (and really, how could you miss a group of tall Slovenes anyway?) When I told him I was heading to Milano for the year, he mentioned how I had to visit Slovenia and how he would show me around next time he goes home. Of course I said yes, but who knew if it would actually happen.

Fast forward to March and I found myself on a train making the trek across Italy to Trieste, the Italian coastal town near the Slovenian border. Robert had invited me over not once but twice when he was home for winter to join him and his friends skiing but ironically both times I was studying for finals. So when he sprung a last minute invitation to join him in Izola, a beach town just a half hour from Trieste, I knew I couldn’t turn it down. And I was extremely excited because I’d be visiting Slovenia for the first time, and nothing beats that high you get when you step into a new country.

Izola

Izola is a sleepy beach town, which if you know me you know is one of my favorite types of vacation spots, so I was all smiles as we arrived into town and checked out the gorgeous view from my friend’s apartment. Mental note: definitely live by the water once you settle down.I have been curious about Slovenia ever since my friend Shawn told me about what an unknown gem it is. Slovenia is a small country, tiny really in comparison to some of its neighbors, but it packs a lot of punch. As we were driving to Ljubljana, the capital (and they really do refer to it as The Capital, almost in an eerie Hunger Games style), I was marveling at how many different types of places this country has to offer: the beach, the countryside, the mountains to go skiing… what the, did we just drive by a shepherd herding his sheep? I love this place! I was given the option to either check out Bled, a town with a lake that’s quite popular among the tourists, or Ljubljana to visit the city center and the main castle. Bled looked beautiful but we in Milan are spoiled by having Como only a short distance away so I opted for the capital. And I must say I am a big fan of the city! Its smaller in size than Milano, and with a river running through it its filled with many cute bridges. The city’s castle is quite nice as well since the city put a lot of money into renovations – you can see an interesting mix of old and new when you visit. The castle’s viewing tower offers a fantastic view, and it’s said that on a clear day you can see up to a third of the entire country.

Aside from visiting the castle we made it a point to have some traditional Slovenian food, starting off with some Slovenian schnapps to keep us warm while we were walking around. We went to one of my friend’s favorite restaurants, Güjžina, which serves food from the Prekmurje region (in northeast Slovenia) – two hours later I was in major food coma from all the deliciousness. The typical drink which many locals prefer is the “prekmurski spricar” which is a spritzer of white wine mixed with mineral water, and the most pleasantly surprising find of the day was trying pumpkin seed oil, the country’s equivalent to olive oil. Ljubljana has a lot of character with it’s artistic expression, for example all around the main streets of the city you can see tons of shoes hanging from wires, and there were also interesting floating orange Monopoly-esque houses that we couldn’t exactly explain. Personally though, what I liked the most was the emphasis on dragons: the dragon is the symbol of the city and is on its coat of arms, and it symbolizes strength and courage. Robert even said the local football teams fans wear green to dress up as dragons at games. Love!

Our main feature: Bujta repa (cabbage with meat), dodoljev tris (potato dish), and ravenska (buckwheat salad)

In addition to checking out Ljubljana, we also visited Izola’s neighboring town Piran which is the oldest Slovenian coastal town. It’s charm, aside from being along the water, has to be its narrow winding streets that lead through the town. Piran is such a picturesque town, and its no wonder that its the country’s main tourist destination. Slovenia in general is a very warm, friendly country. It’s so safe that many people don’t even worry about locking their doors or cars. Robert mentioned that many people here are too shy to speak English, and we actually noticed several times as people started to approach us, overheard our conversation got nervous and walked away! I found it adorable actually, and have to say I can relate after living in Milan these past 6 months and watching some of my guy friends unsuccessfully try to flirt with Italian girls. Overall I’d have to agree with my friend Shawn – Slovenia really is a gem, and I’m glad to have seen it through the eyes of a local.

I’m always amazed at where life can lead us. A year ago I wouldn’t have imagined that I’d be in Slovenia sharing a glass of wine and good conversation with a friend I made in NYC. And two summers ago as I was visiting my friend in Milan during my month of backpacking, I only wished I could live in Italy and couldn’t foresee that I’d be making it a reality this year. As I was sharing the past year’s highs and lows and my concerns for my future career path, Robert reminded me that years ago we were worried about different things in our lives that have managed to work themselves out today. I’ve had major disappointments and setbacks in the last few years in both my professional and personal life, and yet I could not imagine that those would lead to this moment here today, spending a year learning so much about business, other cultures, Europe and about myself. So when I think about it that way, that our lives will always have a plan B and that it’ll still work out magnificently, it relieves some of the tension and anxiety that I have been putting on myself. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop trying for the things I really want; on the contrary I will continue to kick like hell to go after it. But perhaps what is right for me is something that is so big that I can’t even wrap my head around it yet but will be patiently waiting for me when the right time comes. And that is pretty damn exciting.

Thanks to Robert for being not only a fantastic host, but also such a great and inspirational friend!

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The International Food Tour Scene in NYC

You know, eating healthy is really hard for me. And it’s not because it’s difficult to find things to eat – I’ve actually been rather good about cooking for myself and adding a healthy amount of protein to my daily intake. My birthday is this weekend (Mother’s Day baby here, best gift ever!) and so a month ago my trainer friend put me on a wussy version of her intense lean protein diet. I had my doubts about it, and while I don’t stick to it all the time it has worked in helping me see results and also being more aware of what I eat. So here’s the bad part: when I do cheat and eat things I’m not supposed to, I am overcome with immense food guilt! Like even as I’m taking a bite I imagine the number of carbs vs proteins vs fats and thus the deliciousness factor is ruined.

(Can I also just add that I stopped midway through writing this blog to go mix myself a protein shake! I disgust myself.)

So I’m not saying its bad to eat healthy, of course not! I envy those people who are content with their salads and their almonds and their peanut butter spoonfuls. But then I think about my international food tour through Europe and how happy I was stuffing my face with macarons in Paris and bratwurst in Berlin and risotto in Milan. And it wasn’t even about how good it tasted, it was the feeling of absolute contentment and bliss of enjoying it all guilt-free. And well, that fact that I was in Europe didn’t hurt either.

So I’m throwing caution to the wind! Ok, not yet, but after I wear my little party dress this weekend I will! And what a better way to do that than by finding some of my favorite international treats right here in NYC. So in no particular order, here are a few must-eats for when you would rather enjoy what you’re eating instead of worrying about calories (boys, note that this right here is the way to my heart):

Mozzarella di Bufala -> Gallo Nero

Soup Dumplings –> Joe’s Shanghai

Korean Double Fried Chicken -> Boka

Dim Sum –> Ping’s

Sushi + Sake -> Haru

Bratwurst -> Bierhaus

Pizza -> Luzzo’s

Biryani – Biryani Cart

Enchiladas – Baby Bo’s

Boba ->Ten Ren’s Tea Time

Belgian Beer -> Vol de Nuit

Petit Fours & Raspberry Tarts -> Veniero’s

Gelato -> Grom

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Filed under International Food Tour, New York

The Dynamics of Dim Sum

“Sixty-one! Sixty-one! SIXTY-ONE!”

A group of four wide-eyed people come darting to the hostess table waving their numbered ticket. “This place is terrifying,” I hear one of the girls exclaim as they take the stairs to the second floor.

“Sixty-four!!! Sixty-four!”

Three more individuals make their way through the crowd. “What is going on!?” a guy with a big, confused grin on his face asks his friend.

What is going on is just another typical, slightly-stressful Sunday brunch hour at the Golden Unicorn, one of the more popular dim sum spots in Chinatown. On 1pm on a Sunday you can prepare for at least a half hour wait, so I’m sitting back with my ticket and enjoying the eavesdropping as I wait for my girlfriends. Dim sum is one of the best brunch deals you can get in the city: affordable, delicious, quick (once you sit down) – how could you go wrong? But if this is your first time trying dim sum, here are a few things to remember so you can ensure a pleasant experience.

Expect to share tables
Depending on where you go, unless you have a group of 6-8 people there’s a good chance that you’ll be sitting with strangers during your meal. Most restaurants have the typical large round table set up, which can be good or bad depending on who you get stuck next to. Another thing to remember is that with the close proximity, your new friends will probably hear every detail of your wild Saturday night or reasons you hate your job. At one recent lunch my girlfriends and I were in a detailed conversation about Whitney Houston’s drug addiction before we looked across the table and noticed a 10 year old girl staring at us absorbing every word. Woops.

Screw the menus
“Can we just get a menu and order? Because this is annoying.”

WRONG attitude. This was overheard from two unhappy lunchers who were sitting at our table and got overwhelmed by the hectic atmosphere. The beauty of dim sum is that you don’t need a menu – the food is brought to you in carts so you can see the real deal up close and personal and decide. Sure, it can be a little crazy with lots of different carts going by quickly and often times the people not speaking English, but that’s all part of the experience. Which leads me to my next point…

Be quick, and pardon all interruptions
“So I couldn’t believe what he said next. He insisted that we…”
“Holy crap, turnip cake! Stop that cart!”

Ok, so it may not exactly be the most polite thing to do, but if a fresh tray of turnip cake or pork steam buns or whatever is your dim sum weakness comes out, throw manners to the wind and grab that sucker! If you’re not quick enough some other lucky table will nab it before you do and you’ll be forced to wait another miserable 5 minutes before the next cart comes around. Let’s be honest here, in any other situation I would be a little annoyed if someone stopped me mid-sentence when I was just about to get to the juicy part of my story. However, during dim sum its perfectly acceptable behavior to interrupt conversations for the sake of food (although, you may want to make sure that everyone in your party is on the same page here or your brunch may not be so pleasant.)

Order what you want and as much as you want
Unlike other restaurants where you check with your friends and make sure to order things that everyone likes, with dim sum you have free reign to go wild and order what you want. With the portions being tapas-style and the price of each tray being so cheap, you shouldn’t feel guilty if you’re the only one in the group that has a thing for shrimp shuumai. That being said, you also should be prepared to share everything you grab since dim sum is family style and it would just be bad form to hog it all for yourself. Also, don’t feel bad if you feel yourself ordering too many trays – chances are everyone else wants it too and is just waiting for someone else to speak up. You’d be surprised at just how quickly you do fill up with dim sum anyway – you’ll most likely leave stuffed and happy that you didn’t break the bank on Sunday brunch for once. I chowed down big-time during yesterday’s meal and it only cost me $15. Win!

 

My top three favorite NYC dim sum spots:
1) Golden Unicorn – 18 East Broadway
2) Ping’s Seafood – 22 Mott Street
3) Chatham Square – 6 Chatham Square

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How To Eat Hitsumabushi

Unagi lovers, rejoice! Hitsumabushi is exactly what the food doctor ordered for hitting that eel fix. The dish is grilled eel over rice, and is one of the more popular local cuisines in Nagoya. And I’ll admit, while I did go to Nagoya to see the town’s beautiful castle, a big part of the reason was to get my hands on some of this grub. But wait, you don’t just dive right into face-first, there’s a whole process to enjoying the hitsumabushi experience!

Step 1:

Divide the eel dish into four sections. Separate the first section into the smaller bowl and enjoy as is.

Step 2:

Eat the second section, except this time add as many seasons and spices as you would like. Go wild!

Step 3:

If you were confused about that broth on the side, this is where it comes into play. Add the different seasonsings to your taste,  and this time top it off with the broth. I went a little crazy with this part, nom nom.

Step 4:

What did you like the most? Lots of seasonings, a drop of the broth to add flavor, or maybe the delectable grilled eel by itself? I prefer dividing it into quarters so that after trying it the first three ways you can pick your favorite and end the meal just right. I preferred it with the broth myself. Enjoy!

 

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Filed under International Food Tour, Japan

Nagasaki Eats

I love Nagasaki! And it may be because FOOD is the way to my heart. The people of Nagasaki have been nothing but kind to me, saying a friendly hello and shoving food into my hands. And ohh, the food has been amazing – it was love at first bite. So before I get into all the other things that make Nagasaki so incredible, here are some awesome spots you must eat at when you’re here.

1) Log Kit – Sasebo Burger

So, Sasebo is a town outside of Nagasaki that is known for its burgers. It’s said to be Japan’s best burger becuase they’re grilled after you order and apparently the buns are homemade as well. Sasebo is about an hour and a half bus ride away and seeing as I didn’t have the time to go over there, Neetha told me about this gem of a burger shack that’s right outside of Nagasaki’s Chinatown. It’s a tiny spot, and I actually walked by it the first time even though I was intently looking for it. Luckily, everyone there is familiar with the place so if you can’t find it just put a pathetic lost foreigner face on like I do and sadly ask “sasebo?” They’ll point you in the right direction. The beef is yummy, the sauce they put on it is delicious, and the fun part comes in when the right way to eat the burger is to “smoosh” it. Seriously, the guy brought me my burger and said “smoooosh, ok?” Sure! The French fries are on point too, and with all the healthy sushi you’ve been eating you can chow down on this guilt-free.

2) Keikaen – Champon

Nagasaki is known for champon, a giant bowl of noodles and other seafood-y goodness. It reminded me of pho because of its size and that there was so much good stuff in there: pork, lots of seafood and veggies. My eyes grew large when I first saw the gigantic bowl that was all mine. This place is fancy but their champon price is right – under 800 yen for a bowl that will definitely fill you up.

3) Wakatakemaru – Conveyor Belt Sushi

Shout out to Hostel Akari for one badass neighborhood map of where to go and what to eat! Akari pointed me in the direction of this ultra-cheap conveyor belt sushi place located in the Hamanomachi Arcade. Every plate was a mere 110 yen each (two pieces to a plate.) What a freakin’ steal. And I’m guessing that this must be the norm for Nagasaki but I was also pleasantly surprised to find mussels in my miso soup. Win! A full dinner cost me only 500 yen, nom nom.

4) Kiitos – Coffee

It was a hot afternoon and I had been walking all over Nagasaki – by the way, who knew this town had so many stairs?! I was falling asleep on my short twenty minute tram rides and I knew I needed a pick me up and a chance to rest my weary legs. Well, Akari came to the rescue once again when it pointed me in the direction of an adorable coffee shop on the Naka Dori shopping street. Walk upstairs and you’re suddenly in bliss with calming music playing and Marimekko art everywhere. I was happy to see that they had cappuccinos and even happier when a deliciously frothy cappuccino appeared for me to nose-dive into. The ambiance of this place is great and the decor is simple yet chic – I could easily see this being a great coffee spot in the village. The owner of the cafe, Julie, started chatting with me and she is absolutely adorable. She’s from Nagasaki and fellas, if she’s not yet taken someone needs to go and swoop her up. Seriously. Also, when I told her I was heading to Fukuoka tonight she ran and gave me a bagel to eat on my trip. So, so sweet. Great food, wonderful people, and a delicious cappuccino: what more could a girl ask for!

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The Great New York Pizza Crawl

One of my good friends was in town from Seattle this past weekend and she had a craving for some GOOD New York pizza. I guess living here I kind of take it for granted, the great selection of pizza spots all around town that is. So how do you narrow down where to go? Well, here are a few of my favorite places to stuff your face with a slice (or five):

The Popular Spots:

John’s

We ended up going here on Saturday night and shooot, I forgot how long the line can be at places like these. No problem though! One medium and one large was a good amount for our table of four, and I highly recommend adding basil and roasted tomatoes to your list of toppings. Yes, the photo above is our delicious pizza from here. Oh, and make sure to avoid the location in Times Square and instead head to John’s on Bleecker.

Grimaldi’s

Well, I kind of had to include this one, didn’t I? It takes me back to when I was a tourist here and would do the walk over the Brooklyn Bridge to get my hands on some of that cheesy goodness. Well, Grimaldi’s is as good as everyone says it is, but now there’s a closer location on 6th Avenue in Chelsea so you don’t have to make the long commute. Not going to lie though, having it close by does take away some of its magic. Typical!

Lombardi’s

Came here last year when my cousins from upstate were looking for some good New York pizza (they are also fans of the chicken and rice cart, mmm.) The pizza was pretty good, and the location in SoHo was fantastic for following up dinner with some bar hopping. Speaking of which…

Best Slices After a Night Out:

Brick Oven Pizza

Hehe, there’s Kati Roll, Chicken and Rice, Papaya Dog and Brick Oven! Definitely some of the best post night-out food that New York has to offer (and hey, its not so bad at a more godly hour either!) This little gem is located on 3rd avenue, conveniently a few blocks away from my old stomping grounds, Banc Cafe (another fine NYC establishment.) You will not regret going here… well, not until the next morning at least. Hey, you only live once.

Pomodoro Ristorante Pizza

Oh crap, I almost forgot about Pomodoro. Another favorite late night spot once you had your fun across the way at Spring Lounge (aka: home base!) The cost of a slice is comparable to other popular pizza joints, but do be wary of ordering full pies because those are super pricey (guilty as charged.)

And The Ultimate:

Luzzo’s

I think in all of the pizza I’ve had since I’ve been here (and unfortunately for me, I’ve had quite a bit) this was the one night that I clearly remember having a HOLY COW WHAT IS THIS moment. Luzzo’s is known for its amazing thin crust pizza. I wish I could tell you which toppings we put on those bad boys because it was the best yumgasm ever, and it was even better because I was surrounded by fantastic company to make it an epic night of feasting. This place is pretty small and the wait can be rather long but the ambiance is pretty cool and oh man its just so worth it. Just go, go right now, and I as finish typing this sentence I am putting on my coat so I can go enjoy some myself! Enjoy!

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Filed under International Food Tour, New York, The States

My Reasons to Love New York: The Winter Edition

I’m from California, and I know all you Chicago folks are going to roll your eyes when I say this but it is COLD in New York!

I’ll be honest, I spent the first few days back in NYC mostly in my apartment “researching” (aka hibernating) and telling myself I was working off my reverse culture shock and readjusting to a somewhat normal routine once again. After a week passed, I realized that I was wasting time that many other people would love to have. I mean, I’m in New York!  Concrete jungle where dreams are made of and all that jazz, I need to channel my inner Alicia Keys and enjoy the moment! So I got on my cutest Japanese winter outfit (shorts with tights and boots of course, and any faux fur I could find), grabbed my boyfriend (my Canon Rebel) and braved the windchill. And you know what – even in what I consider to be the worst month of the year, this city is still pretty amazing.  Even if I just got back from being outdoors and I’m pretty sure my fingers are still numb while I type this. So to honor my fine city of current residence, here is my short and not at all exhaustive list of…

My Reasons to Love New York Even When It’s Ridiculously Cold Outside:

1) The Cozy Bar Scene

Nothing beats a bucket of beer at The Frying Pan on a cool summer afternoon, but when winter hits where do all the thirsty New Yorkers run to? One of the reasons I love New York in the winter is because of the fantastic bar scene. Choose your poison – a whiskey bar with a toasty fireplace to keep your blood warm, a restaurant/bar with some great live music that’s superb for people watching, or perhaps a rooftop bar with an amazing (but indoor) view of the city? When it comes to bar options in winter, the city is full of good spots. My current favorite is JIMMY, a sexy and modern rooftop bar atop The James Hotel in SoHo. The drinks are steep but on point, their fireplace is a great touch, and you can get a killer view from just about anywhere in the bar. And I do mean anywhere – the women’s bathroom has a floor to ceiling window. But don’t be shy, I’m pretty sure no one can see you.

View from JIMMY at The James. Photo not my own.

Another favorite spot of mine is Revel in the Meatpacking District. I can’t handle lines even when the weather is warm, and I sure don’t want to be standing outside on a cold January night! Revel is a great spot because even though its in Meatpacking its not ultra-pretentious or impossible to get into, and once inside there’s a great outdoor area with a retractable roof in the back. Don’t worry they close the roof in winter. Also, my friend and favorite resident DJ, Dj Japancakes, is there on most Saturday nights. The crowd can be hit or miss at times, but the music is hot and you’re only a stone’s throw away should you choose to venture out to one of the other spots in MPD. Beware of the door woman at the Jane Hotel!

Other honorable mentions:

The Spotted Pig, a fantastic West Village gastropub for people watching.

Lovers of Today, a hard to find but cozy spot in the East Village.

2) Madison Square Park, and everything in it.

In the summer, Madison Square Park was one of my favorite lawns to lay out at and do my weekly crosswords. And in the winter, its still a favorite spot because the bare trees with the clocktower look stunning. But aside from being a cute park to take a break at, what I really love about it is that its the home of Shake Shack! And the best part about Shake Shack in the winter: shorter lines! Note that I didn’t say short because c’mon, New Yorkers and tourists alike will do anything when they have a shake shack craving. But today’s line around 2pm was not bad at all. Never been to Shake Shack? Be bold and don’t skip their shakes – they’re pretty damn tasty and maybe even worth the frostbite your hands will get from holding it.

Second best reason to love Madison Square Park: turn around and you are facing Eataly, New York’s giant Italian marketplace. People seem to have mixed feelings about Eataly. Some people don’t like the set up of Birreria, their rooftop bar/restaurant. Others often complain about it being too crowded. It is a very busy spot, but I still brave the crowds when I go because I need to feed my addiction. My coffee addiction that is, not my love of all things Italian (although they do go hand in hand.) To me, Eataly’s coffee/espresso at Caffe Lavazza is some of the tastiest that I’ve tried in the city. When I drink it, it puts me right back in Italy having cappuccino and brioche with my friend in Milan and talking about what went wrong with Juventus. Don’t take my word on it though, try it for yourself! And grab a seat at one of their food tables, help yourself to some snacks and warm yourself up with a glass of wine. Buon appetito!

3) Food Trucks

While we’re on the subject of food, I thought I should bring up one of my year-round favorite reasons I love this city. The amazing selection of FOOD TRUCKS. One of the best things about food trucks in winter is that since they’re mobile, you don’t have to walk across town to get your Kimchi Taco Truck fix. Just check their calendar to see when they come to you. How great is that. Even though harsh weather conditions can sometime hurt the food trucks schedule, for the most part I feel that they try hard to make it out to their customers on a regular basis. If you are reluctant about trying it, as someone who will proudly admit that I follow about 10 different food trucks on Twitter, I can say say that food there is ridiculously delicious too. And if that still doesn’t tickle your fancy, let me just suggest an at-home delivery alternative: FreshDirect.

4) Ice Skating

Ok, full disclosure: I really hate ice skating. Like personally taking part in the activity. It’s just that I lack certain coordination skills, so me on blades is never a good idea. I’m that girl who is clinging to the wall, or the one who won’t let go of your hand. If I go down, you better believe you’re coming with me! That being said, even I can admit that ice skating is adorable. I mean, its got to be one of the top five winter date ideas right? I just saw some guy spitting game on his date just now, and you know what? It worked. Magical ice skates, I tell ya. Ice skating makes the city light up. Below is a picture of people skating in Bryant Park on a Friday afternoon. If I had to pick, I would choose Wollman Rink in Central Park, but between the Rockefeller Center Rink and the Standard Hotel Ice Rink in Meatpacking (just to name a few,) you definitely have your choice of options.

5) Central Park!

Central Park is breathtaking in the fall with all the leaves changing colors, but there is something so serene about seeing it blanketed in snow. With this weekend having the first real snow of the season, I decided to head into the park to capture some photos. Note: fingerless gloves are not enough to keep your hands warm when photographing outdoors, brr. Central Park is fantastic and I was thrilled to stumble upon a spot where about twenty-five kids (and even a few big kids my age) were sledding. Seeing them having such a great time outdoors right in the heart of the city was magical and it made me appreciate the change in seasons here. I love New York!

What are your reasons to love NYC in the winter?

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Filed under International Food Tour, New York, The States

Making Gulab Jamun

 

“Gulab jamun may just be the world’s most perfect dessert.” – Arun

First time making gulab jamun, with the help of Lydia’s mom. Next week I will attempt it on my own.

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November 20, 2011 · 2:08 pm

North Indian Thali: The Indian Bento Box

 

Gobi, roasted papad, paneer butter masala, subji, dal, naan, biryani, white rice, and gulab jamun for dessert.Comes with soup and a small lassi.

Total cost: 170 rupees, or under $3.50.

Apoorva’s Sangeetha, Chennai

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November 12, 2011 · 12:56 pm