Monthly Archives: June 2016

Mornings in Manhattan

” ‘So many people,’ she thinks, ‘each one with their own story, each following their own singular line of fate.’ ” 

– Blood and Beauty

In my suburban desert opinion, all big cities are the same.  Tall buildings, heavy population, and an endless jumble of concrete streets to negotiate.  I visit such places wanting to be surprised and delighted which usually works out well.  It makes my life seem so small in comparison, but I suppose seeing what’s out there and picking up ideas on the way is a form of growth.  I prepared myself for dense masses rushing to and fro on every street, but luckily it being a weekend I experienced a very slow version of the city.

Central Park (Upper East Side)
This was probably the highlight of my trip.  It is a free destination and nature always appeals to me so long as it’s tamed rather than wild and potentially dangerous. Countless films such as Home Alone 2, Enchanted, and You’ve Got Mail featured scenes from this sheltered green sanctuary.  I couldn’t imagine it in the fall or winter but I’m sure it’s all lovely no matter what the season.  The zoo area is especially charming with its brick exteriors that suit the surrounding trees.  My cousin said the reason we don’t see brick buildings in the West Coast is due to our earthquakes which would crumble them apart.

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Guggenheim Museum
I’ve been wanting to see this place for years.  My heart lifted seeing the iconic white building as I was walking alongside Central Park.  The spiral is closed, they told me when I made my way in.  They were working on renovations so for a reduced rate one could walk in to see a portion of their exhibits.

Before that day I didn’t give much thought to how the works at placed, just figured someone hangs it and makes sure it’s level.  But I see now it is actually a big production with angle specialists, photographers, and other directors who double check placement and other expert details to ensure the right positioning.  They had plenty of modern art such as Kandinskys and Picassos which didn’t disappoint.

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Bloomingdale’s
Fancy shops, whoop de doo.  Straight to the 7th floor where they I found a dessert and smoothie restaurant called 40 Carrots.  After miles of walking the cool tartness was good to my soul.

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Dean and Deluca
In a rush to get some last minute souvenirs I rushed down to this infamous gourmet shop.  They have a deli with all kinds of vegan offerings and a other hoity toity selections for those that are into that kind of thing.

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My bag of pretty gifts in tow, I made my way to JFK (traffic is gold, my female cabbie said) and had an easy go for the return flight. I’ll miss the selection of gluten free items and being driven around like a celebrity. I’m grateful to have had this chance to spend time with the family, and that no one was injured, plus I unexpectedly hit everything on my list (not an easy task, my stay being only 36 hours, effectively making this almost a layover trip).

During my time here I reveled in clear skies and overcast weather, the same dry and chilly gloom I’m used to in dearest California. It only started drizzling when my plane was taking off.  Don’t cry for me, New York.  I’m coming home.

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Side note: Jet Blue is aces!  Compared to my first flight, where I was given a single serving of cranapple mix since cranberry is unavailable or offensive, I got 2 beverage services (with entire cans of straight cranberry juice), a bag of chips, and a hot towel!  They also have a “marketplace” where you help yourself to more snacks.

– My cousin likes to cut the plastic 6 pack rings to save the ocean (awwww)
– Natives are polite and service is courteous, same as back home (weekends only?)
– I did not encounter any classic NY accents, maybe it’s just from older generations

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A Taste of New York

If there’s one thing you can’t fault this city for, it’s food. Their extensive variety puts even the abundant SoCal selections to shame. Not only that, but it’s practically a gluten free paradise which thrilled me to no end.  About every corner in Manhattan you can find Halal carts, but only a few of them actually are worth visiting, according to my guide.  That didn’t stop me from sniffing the grilled kabobs like a curious hound when hiking through the city.

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Shake Shack (DoBro)
My first official meal in the city and frankly the best one.  There are multiple locations but I headed to the one near the apartment. There was hardly a line at 11:30 when they’ve just opened but I knew later in the day a sea of customers would descend.  It’s a nondescript building, very clean and modern looking with black and green motif.
I didn’t expect much after hearing everyone rave about its greatness, but my philosophy is that when you have a name you should make it count.  Therefore, the shakes should knock my socks off.  They feature frozen custard (their own recipe made daily on the premises) and use it as a base to their shakes; I chose the flavor of the week which was red velvet.  The problem I have with shakes and dessert in general is the excessive amount of sugar, but here they’re light on sweetness, smooth and rich in flavor at the same time.  My verdict?  Instant love with this blissful concoction that took me to the moon and back.  I would only make the cup slightly more artistic since it is their signature item and for what you pay, should be a visual marvel, not a humble minimum.
Their other items were pretty great I have to admit.  Even if I prefer skinny fries their crinkle cut ones were definitely crunchy and cooked to perfection.  Their patty is made from Angus beef, seasoned with a crispy charred exterior.  I didn’t have a lot of the bun because of my intolerance but they’re toasted of the standard diner variety.
I feel like a traitor to my state preferring it over In-N-Out but I can’t fight this feeling anymore, I’m so gone for them. I would say though that it’s hardly comparable since they’re probably more than triple the price of my local legend.  Yes, I will be back to partake in your shakes, and since one recently opened up on my coastline, it will be soon.

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Il Buco (SoHo)
Our birthday celebration took us to this authentic Italian spot in the ever so hipsterlicious neighborhood where you may find all the artsy Ho Hey bohemian type shops and population.  The homey atmosphere and European waiters took me back to Venice.  Our server explained the menu changes daily depending on what the chef found at the market that morning.  Also there are no changes allowed since the ingredients are chosen to harmonize in a particular way.  I liked that control freak aspect, it makes sense in a non corporate setting.  I wished I could partake of all the fresh handmade pasta but alas.
Side note: they don’t carry soda (!)

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NoGlu (Manhattan)
A Parisienne chef crossed the ocean to bring America the gift of an entirely gluten free bakery.  With bakeries I learned there’s a tricky aspect I call game of timing.  If you walk in first thing when they open, which is what I did, they don’t have everything on their menu ready since the baker works on making things fresh throughout the day.  Should you try to visit later on, you risk missing out on popular items that will sell out as soon as they’re available.  I was dying to try their chocolate tart but since it was too early, settled for other items instead.

Brioche: incorrectly named muffins (brioche is supposed to be a rich fluffy yeast bread), I loved the blackberry ones, the dough was slightly sweet and the almonds on top were a nice touch; the chocolate one was dry and tasteless

Blackberry tart: berries were fine, a vanilla bean base and a dry gritty crust was not very pleasant, I think they should go for a traditional pate sucree which would be more tender

It was a priority for me to visit this shop but next time I’ll skip it and explore the 20 other bakeries on the same street that offer gluten free items.

Side note: Is it just me or are places opening later and later, like why would bakeries open anytime after 8am? All customers want to eat their bread before they go to work or school, do they not want to wake up for more profit?  Makes no sense!!!! <end rant>

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Pio Bagel (DoBro)
Somehow I forgot that New York is famous for their bagels (I knew about the pizza, but missed my chance, grr).  This building is across the street from where I was staying and I didn’t consider going in until I saw a sign saying they carry gluten free ones.  Hold the phone!  The morning of my departure, I stopped in first thing. I appreciate these kinds of places since they’re tasked with feeding people on the way to work, in a sense, fueling America one morning at a time.
I went with the classic bagel with cream cheese.  And guess what, it tasted like the normal chewy bagel, unbelievable.  I took another one in sandwich form so I could later devour it on the plane.  I noticed they were generous with their meat and wrapped the whole thing twice with butcher paper – now that’s quality. I long to have one again, bagels will haunt my dreams for a while.

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made with love and sorcery

 


Straight Into Brooklyn

Go to New York City, they said.
It’ll be fun, they said.

On a sad gray Friday the 13th I drove to LAX and stood in the nauseating security line before boarding a plane.

Destination: New York City to see my cousin for his birthday.

After determining an engine problem my flight 415 deplaned and took over another aircraft originally destined for Las Vegas (sorry folks, but it only takes an hour, the casinos will still be there).  They were very organized and efficient in transferring us so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, ie canceling the flight altogether.

Close to landing, I looked out the window and was in awe of the glittering splendor of gold and silver lights strewn over expanses of homes and rivers.  “Welcome to New York,” said the flight attendant, which made me laugh.

I found myself alone at JFK 3am EST where a line of cab drivers heckled the arrivals exit hungry for passengers.  I was told to take the New Golden Horse Car Service, a Chinese company to fetch her royal highness for a better fee than a standard taxi.  I called and someone picked me up to head over to DoBro (downtown Brooklyn), up 34 floors and made it to the apartment to be greeted by the resident dog Koa, a noble character with more dignity than I could hope to possess.

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After an intense hugging session with Koa, I crashed on the couch next to the NYC skyline
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My work schedule trained me to wake before the dawn.  I could easily see everything from this window that looks upon the Manhattan skyline (Chrysler, Empire State Building, Freedom, Brooklyn Bridge, etc.) but I guess it’s time to go meet the famed metropolis up close.

Waiting for everyone else in my family to rise, I went out with my cousin to walk Koa, going through this swanky entrance on Bridge Street

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Then we made our way to the Myrtle Promenade

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After a yummy lunch, we were off to the screechy lurchy subway!