Tag Archives: NYC

The Great Fireworks Fail

We formed a game plan while relaxing in Central Park. We had on comfortable footwear, were armed with lots of h2o and felt prepared to handle the crowd. Chris zipped up his backpack, put on his game face and solemnly said “Ok, let’s do this.” We were going to attempt the impossible: to view the Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks from the West Side Highway, while only arriving there less than an hour before the show started.

We majorly failed.

In hindsight, we really should have known better. As savvy New Yorkers who have been living here for years we had no excuses. I personally blame my building for shutting down our roof and deck to avoid dealing with the crowds. And our game plan didn’t seem like such a bad idea… until we found ourselves packed like sardines with hundreds of other stressed and anxious people on 11th avenue. Suddenly I had a flashback to every alien/monster/end of the world movie that took place in NYC.

A crazy crowd and an even crazier cab driver

Did I mention that due to NYC’s famous highrise set up, we couldn’t see anything from even just one block over from the river. After trying unsuccessfully to get back to my apartment (because the cops actually blocked downtown pedestrian traffic on 11th), we just threw our hands up in the air and found the nearest bar to get some cold beers and laugh about just how pathetic that was. It’s a good thing I love a good story, even if its at my own expense.

2010 fireworks from my deck

NYC, you may have won this round, but I’ll be back…

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The Beautiful Game: My Fav Football Bars for Euro 2012

For better or for worse, for the last couple weeks I have been obsessively reading up on the UEFA Euro ’12 championship. And now that it’s finally here (yay!) I can barely contain myself. For those of you that are not football fans, the Euros is kind of a big deal. It happens every four years between the World Cup, and the majority of the teams are pretty strong. 16 teams are divided up randomly into four groups and play for the highest points. Once the group stage has passed the two top teams in each group move forward and the winners play the runners up of another group, before it becomes to the death with the quarters, semis and final games. As a loyal Spain fan, I am naturally honing in on Group C whos biggest rival is Italy, but I am also in awe of B’s “Group of Death.” Regardless, each group has already proved to have some highly riveting games and anything can happen at this point.

So if you’re in NYC and looking for a spot to catch the games on the weekends or somewhere to sneak off and watch in the middle of the workday, here are a few spots I recommend checking out regardless of what team you may be backing.

Germany:

Zum Schneider

If you dare to go here for a Germany game, be prepared for the chaos that is sure to ensue. On days when their national team is playing, not only do they have a DJ but they also have an oompah band. That’s right, I said an Oompah Band! And when Germany won the recent World Cup the bat patrons took to the streets in celebration. This spot is definitely not for those that are looking for a quiet place to watch the game, so do yourself a favor and just get involved!

Bierhaus

Bierhaus is a welcome relief from the typically subpar bars in Midtown. While its not an outdoor beer garden, its pretty spacious and there’s good sized tv’s to catch the game. Add a delicious bratwurst, giant beers and dressed up bar maidens, and it’s a solid spot to show your German pride.

Spain:

La Nacional

When Alexis and I walked into this restaurant two years ago to catch a World Cup game, we were initially disappointed to see only about 3 other people in the whole place. However, the whole place was soon packed with Spaniards who shared our excitement for the game, and we were one of the very few non-native Spanish speakers in the room. Football + Spanish cursing = music to our ears.

Circulo Español

Ok, full disclosure – I haven’t been here BUT I feel the need to share it anyway because I was tipped off by a Spaniard who was raving about it. The restaurant is located in Astoria and is a big spot for expats. The suggestion is to get there early enough to order the delicious paella and make sure it gets brought to you before the game begins and the waiters suddenly forget about you.

England:

Football Factory at Legends

Started by one of the owners of Nevada Smith’s, this bar is a hot spot for not only European football but the NY Red Bulls as well. It’s somewhat known to be a Chelsea bar, so you can bet that there will be a big crowd rooting on the Brits here.

Italy:

Diva

Surprisingly not a lot of Italian football bars in NYC come to my mind, but one restaurant that is defintely an Italian supporter is Diva. Located in one of my favorite intersesctions in SoHo, its a great open-air brunch spot to snag a table and watch the game. While there’s only one tv in the whole place, the atmosphere is lively and its still worth checking out. Tip: Make a reservation in advance, try to snag a table closer to the tv, and order some pitchers of sangria.

Other Awesome Football Bars:

Peter Dillon’s

Not gonna lie, I’m a little reluctant to write about this bar because its my secret spot and I like it that way. However, it is a no frills pub that is serious about it’s football. I’ve come to love this place over the years, and you can guarantee big football matches will be given top priority over other sports when necessary. Bring your own food, and make sure to order a drink at the bar or the bartender (who I love!) will give you hell about it.

Nevada Smiths

I kind of wanted to keep this spot off my list as well just because its the main go-to bar that everyone mentions, but you’d be hard pressed to find more hardcore football enthusiasts packed into one dark bar anywhere else. When it’s not a championship game, the bar is rather low-key with seats available and not too many people around. However, for tournaments you can definitely expect a packed house and no seating room whatsoever. That being said, the energy level is high and if you go with it (and not care that you feel like sardines) then this can be a great spot to catch the games. *Note: Nevada Smith’s is currently under construction so they’ve temporarily relocated to Webster Hall around the corner.

Café Felix

Alright, so this is a French restaurant but if you were watching the Spain/Italy semi final match of Euro ’08 here then you would have seen my table of red jerseys jumping up and down in happiness amidst a sea of sad blue fans. That afternoon at Felix is hands down one of the top five best moments I’ve had in NYC and why I am an advocate for watching games at that bar. The brunch is delicious, the drinks are strong and the crowd is as euro as you can get in Manhattan. That being said, it’s a small spot and reservations must be made early in advance if you don’t want to be standing in the back, and make sure they plan on having the projector down for the game you want to watch. You can expect to find me here if Spain makes it to the finals this year.

Honorable Mentions:

Smithfield – A popular spot where football is the sport of choice and with tons of LED TV’s.

*Update – Just watched the Group of Death matches here on 6/16 and it was phenom! Enthusiastic crowd, awesome bartenders and two floors to make sure each game on gets audio. YES.

Central Bar – Large, open Irish bar in the East Village that can draw a rather eclectic crowd.

Stout – Sure, the location is a little annoying, but if you’re around Penn Station looking for a good bar to grab a table and watch the game this is a good call.

Rattle N Hum – This  bar is supposed to be one of the top football bars for the Euros, and also offers lots of delicious craft beer.

 

So now that you are fully informed on the Where, the question is When are we meeting up to catch a game?

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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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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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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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