NYC food

NYC Bucket List

No need to do a double take. I’m not leaving NYC. I’m never leaving NYC–you should know that by now! But my best friend is. She’s also a born and bred New Yorker, but she’s moving to London at the end of the summer. For good. She swears she won’t adopt a British accent, but I’m not so sure about that. 😉

During our past few hobby nights*, we’ve been talking about her NYC bucket list–and crossing off a few items. Yesterday we had drinks and a fabulous dinner at Gramercy Tavern. The Tuesday before, we got cocktails at PDT. Not surprisingly, most of her bucket list items revolve around food. As a kid growing up in NYC, as she put it, she did most of the touristy stuff and saw more Broadway shows than she can remember. So her list consists of restaurants she still wants to try, as well as other random activities. Among them: an afternoon at Smorgasburg;В dinners at Peter Luger, Minetta Tavern, the 21 Club; a ride on the Roosevelt Island tram–and as many brunches and final trips to favorite bars and restaurants as she can squeeze in.

Talking to her about her bucket list made me wonder what I’d put on mine, if I were also leaving NYC. Like her, I’ve done tons of classic NYC stuff over the course of my life: went to the top of the Empire State Building;В saw the Macy’s July 4 fireworks live (they were in Battery Park City, at the time); circumnavigated Manhattan on the Circle Line;В walked over the Brooklyn Bridge; had my bones rattled on the Cyclone; saw the Mets at Shea Stadium and Citi Field; watched the Knicks at MSG; walked the High Line; rode the Staten Island Ferry; took in City Ballet at Lincoln Center (not to mention attended other dance shows at BAM, the Joyce and smaller venues); attended outdoor concerts and movies; visited all the big museums, parks, beaches, botanical gardens, zoos and the aquarium.

And, of course, I’ve eaten at more restaurants than I could list in one post.

When I think about the typical NYC things I still haven’t done, I’m not exactly dying to experience them. I’ve never gone to the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island. I used to run by lines of tourists waiting to board boats to take them there–and that didn’t motivate me to join them!

But I was able to scrounge up a few items to create a small NYC bucket list:

But since I have no plans to leave NYC, I might as well get on this, no?

What would be on your NYC bucket list? Or your list of must-dos if you just had a limited time in NYC?

(Photo via Streets of London)

*Hobby night = Tuesday happy hour

On Dining Out Solo

A few weeks ago, Grub Street ran a great post on the benefits of eating alone at restaurants. Krista Simmons, the writer, broke down the stereotype that solo diners are “sad, lonely people with no friends” and gave a number of reasons why eating alone is actually kind of awesome. Chief among them: You can really focus on the food and make friends with the restaurant staff–which could lead to VIP service. As Will Guidara, general manager and co-owner of Eleven Madison Park and NoMad, confirms:

I don’t think there’s anything more flattering than someone sitting and having dinner in the dining room alone…With a single diner, we really get the opportunity to interact with curious eaters. You know they’re really there for the food.

I found Grub Street’s post very timely because I recently decided to dine solo more often. For all of my adult life, I’ve never had a problem doing things on my own: taking dance classes, traveling, going to concerts. I attribute my comfort in doing so to the traveling I did in college and my early 20s. Whether I was going solo to an all-day music festival in Sydney or seeking out amazing dim sum in Hong Kong, I quickly learned that not having someone to join you isn’t a reason to forgo an experience. You really can have a good time on your own terms.

I do a lot of activities alone in NYC, but I realized I’m way more apt to dine solo when I’m in any other city than my own.В I never hesitate to get a table for one when traveling. But that thought rarely crosses my mind in day-to-day life. I should be just as motivated to take advantage of great food in my hometown (which happens to be one of the world’s premier culinary destinations), as much as I do when I’m in a place where my time is fleeting.

Another motivating factor:В I live way uptown in Washington Heights, but recently joined a gym in NoHo. I work out there just once a week (on a non-ballet day, of course) and love having an excuse to be in the area–there are so many restaurants and new ones open all the time. I feel like I should take advantage of the eating opportunities, whether or not a friend can meet for a late dinner.

So a few weeks ago, when I didn’t have post-gym plans, I took myself out to dinner. I was craving a good cocktail and pork buns (I know, my four miles on the treadmill undone right there). So I went to Booker and Dax, the David Chang/Dave Arnold cocktail bar. I got a seat at the bar and chatted with the bartender and the guy next to me, who was also by himself. My “Son of a Peach” tequila drink and pork buns were phenomenal (as anyone who’s been to Momofuku knows). And I happily tucked into them, savoring the flavors and not missing a dinner companion one bit.

Do you ever dine out alone? What’s been your experience?

A Happy Saturday (and Sunday)

happy saturday

I’ve been spoiled. My two favorite people have made the trip from Maryland to NYC two weekends in a row. And this weekend, I had the added bonus of having our friend, Doug, in town, as well. So to celebrate our converging in NYC, we spent the entire weekend doing what we do best: Eating.

Saturday was the kind of day I’ve been craving for so long: Warm, sunny, gorgeous and perfect for whiling away hours outside. (As in, it FINALLY felt like summer–which I’ve been counting down to before winter even began.) We headed across the river toВ Smorgasburg.

Not surprisingly, tons of people had the same idea. The lot was crowded, but we didn’t have to wait very long for food. Between the four of us, we amassed quite a spread: a gigantic carnitas sandwich from Cemita’s, a chicken schnitzel on a pretzel roll from Schnitz NYC, loroco and pork papusas from Solber PapusasВ (my personal favorites) and a pizza from Pizza MotoВ (which had, to my delight, a runny egg on top). Everything was reeeeeeeeally delicious.

schnitzel, cemita, papusas

pizza

After eating…

mal with schnitzel

…we just hung out enjoying the sun and view of the Manhattan skyline.

mal and peter

We’d planned to hit Brooklyn Brewery next, but a crazy line outside discouraged us from even bothering with it. Instead, we made our way to Berry Park‘s roof deck–and that ended up being way nicer. (Brooklyn Brewery, you need an outside space!) The place was packed, but we amazingly managed to score seats.

heather

Yay! We got seats!

mal and me

mal and peter

A couple hours (and beers and girly huckleberry lemonades, on my part) later, we moseyed back across the river for shopping and Korean BBQ.

On Sunday, we all headed out to Long Island to celebrate Peter’s father’s bday. His mom–always the amazing cook–put together an awesome spread of cheeses, meats, bread and veggies, plus hardboiled eggs from last week’s Easter celebration. (How gorgeous are these? Mariana explained that she just places herb leaves flat against the eggs, carefully wraps them in stockings and then boils them with onion skin.)

easter eggs

I was sad when we all headed off in our own directions, but glad to squeeze in a 5 mile run to work off the weekend’s calories. (And I’m already looking forward to heading down to Maryland next weekend–after my trip to Chicago this weekend!)

(Second photo via Smorgasburg)

Farewell Brunch at Chinatown Brasserie

Mal and Peter

Last weekend, my family gave Mal and Peter a sendoff brunch before their big move to Maryland. We decided on Chinatown Brasserie so we could still do dim sum, but in a more relaxed atmosphere than actual Chinatown. (Plus, better cocktails, too!) It was so nice to get everyone together, despite the bittersweet reason.

Grandma SooHooMy grandmother–isn’t she cute?

Mickey and Maria

Soup DumplingsMmm…soup dumplings

Me and MemeMe and my mom.

Custard BaosChinatown Brasserie’s amazing custard baos–the best way to top off dim sum.

Back Forty Crab Boil: A Crabby Start to Summer

I’ve been trying not to eat out as often as I used to (like when I still had a steady source of income), but when one of Ryan’s friends invited us to a crab boil at Back Forty, I couldn’t say no. Each Tuesday during the summer, the East Village restaurant holds crab dinners, where diners sit around communal tables and tear into round after round of steamed blue crabs. The cost is a justifiable $40 per person — which includes sides and dessert, though no beer, unfortunately В — and the idea of practically all-you-can-eat seafood seemed too good to pass up.

So on Tuesday night, we arrived at Back Forty for the last seating. Our group was placed around a long table covered with newspaper and scattered with wooden mallets.

Back Forty1

After an appetizer of salt cod hush puppies, a server told us that the crabs, potatoes, and string beans would be served in three rounds. A few minutes later, another server came out carrying two metal buckets overflowing with crabs. He then upended buckets and dumped the crabs right onto the table.

Back Forty2

It was at that moment that I realized I had never eaten crabs with my bare hands before. I also hadn’t considered that a squeamish feeling might come over me when faced with the crabs. I’m a recovering vegetarian, but I’m not at the point where I feel all that comfortable with seafood and meat still looking like, well, the animals themselves.

I was able to push the squeamish thoughts out of my head as I followed the veteran crab eaters’ instructions on taking the crabs apart. I tried not to think about the fact that I was bashing a crab’s head with a wooden mallet, ripping half its body off, snapping the remainder in half, and pulling off its legs one by one. Luckily, the restaurant was too dark for me to get a good look at the eyes, guts and lungs.В 

Back Forty3

After all the work dismantling the crab, eating the soft, flavorful meat was a treat. But since there wasn’t much meat in each crab, we had no trouble ripping apart and devouring all three rounds — as you can see from the rather gross-looking photo below.

Back Forty4

Third Big Apple BBQ, First Time Eating It

Somehow, attending the annual Big Apple BBQ has become a tradition for me, even though I didn’t eat meat until this year, and I only eat it in small quantities now. I think I always enjoyed going because it’s one of those New York outdoor events that brings together big groups of people — and BBQ from around the country — at the beginning of summer.

…plus, it always gave me an excuse to inhale a deep fried, Shake Shack shroom burger and black and white shake while everyone around me gorged on meat.

This year, Ryan and I went with a group of friends. As usual, Madison Square Park was packed by noon, and long lines stretched from the various BBQ tents. Each of our friends was dispatched to a different stand with strict orders to bring back two plates of each specialty. I, of course, headed to Shake Shack to get my shroom burger and black and white shake.В 

Also as usual, the Shake Shack line took nearly twice as long as the longest BBQ line. By the time I had my order in hand, everyone else had been to their stands and was seated at a picnic table. An array of ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, smoked sausages, and beef brisket sat before us, and we cut everything into small pieces for easy sharing.

Big Apple BBQ2

Despite getting Shake Shack, I decided to try everything.

Maybe it’s because I’m finally at the point where eating meat no longer makes me feel nauseous afterwards, but I thought everything tasted great. The brisket and pulled pork were smoky and tender, and the sausage had a bit of a kick. I thought the ribs were a tad dry, but they had a nice flavor. I’ll defer to the meat eaters for the final verdict on everything, though, since six meatless years don’t make me the best BBQ judge. They said: The flavor was pretty good, but everything could use more of it via a bit more sauce.

Oh well. It’s not like anything really went to waste.

Big Apple BBQ