food

Eddie Huang on NYC’s Food Culture

eddie_huang

I’ve been reading a ton this summer, and recently finished Eddie Huang’s memoir, Fresh Off the Boat.

In the book, Huang retraces his rough upbringing in Florida—constantly dealing with blatant, violent racism—to a life-changing few months in Taiwan, to law school and beyond in NYC, where he launched a street clothing line and opened Baohaus, his successful restaurant.

Huang’s voice is distinct—slang-inflected and and at times rambling. His ’90s hip-hop references and matter-of-fact observations had me laughing out loud. And I appreciated how he didn’t sugarcoat just how tough it can be as an Asian-American. I could certainly relate to dealing with ignorant people while growing up, and even now.

But by far, my favorite part of the book was the end, when things started looking up for Huang. He discovered the amazing breadth of the NYC food scene and eventually found his own place in it:

I liked how we all took ownership in the city, its culture, and its food. We still argue all the time about soup dumplings. Tourists and cornballs love Joe’s Shanghai, but everyone knows it’s Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao holding down in Flushing…we’ll go on and on about how great the lox and whitefish are at Russ & Daughters, but how undeserving their bagels are. The biggest travesty in downtown New York is that you have to buy your lox at R&D then take the train up to Ess-a-Bagel to put together a proper lox, caper, red onion, cream cheese, on sesame or salt bagel. We wish 2nd Ave Deli was still on Second Avenue, we worry about the old man’s health at Di Fara Pizza, and we still don’t understand how people can go to Szechuan Gourmet and order from the American Chinese menu while we get busy with the chili leek intestine casserole and a Diet Coke.

But despite the misfires, overhyped openings, and super-restaurants that mar the landscape, New York is the best eating city not named Tokyo or Taipei, and we owe it to the people Fresh Off the Boat. From the old chick selling churros on the Sunset Park D train to the stray cat crawling over the counter at Fort Greene’s Farmer in the Deli to Peter Luger’s in Williamsburg to Great N.Y. Noodletown on Bowery to Shopsin’s on Essex to Baohaus on Fourteenth to La Taza de Oro on Ninth Avenue to Sapporo on forty-ninth to the golden elevator at Kuruma Zushi to Lechonera in Harlem to SriPraPhai in Woodside to Mario’s on Arthur Avenue, it’s an army of first- and second-generation immigrants that feed this city.

I couldn’t help but smile when I read those two paragraphs—because it’s all 100% true!

I’ve had awesome meals at Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao, Szechuan Gourmet, Great N.Y. Noodletown and SriPraPhi. I’ve eaten more Ess-a-Bagels than I could ever count. (In fact, that was my “poverty diet” lunch for years, when I worked across the street from the shop. I was making so little money that all I could afford was a bagel with nothing on it, because it only cost $1 and filled me up for hours.)

And we really do worry about the old dude’s health at Di Fara! Because if he goes, who will make the pizza?!

Plus, whenever I ask myself if I could ever leave NYC, the same few things remind me that I couldn’t: My family. Ballet. And the food, for exactly the reason Huang states: all the immigrants from around the world, cooking their specialties and serving them up to hungry, curious and appreciative New Yorkers.

Not something you find in every city!

(Image via Friends We Love)

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NYC Cooking Afternoon: League of Kitchens Workshop

And in other Evan-Heather adventures: For Christmas, just like his birthday, I wanted to give Evan something that the two of us could share.

Instead of going on another trip, I opted for a local experience.

Evan loves food. In fact, I think he’s more passionate about eating and trying different types of cuisine than he is about anything else.

So I thought that a League of Kitchens cooking class would be perfect for us.

The idea is that home cooks make some of the best food—especially dishes that are handed down through generations and made with love for family and friends. The League of Kitchens partners with NYC immigrant cooks who teach small groups of students their signature recipes in their homes. They offer several types of cuisine: Trinidadian, Argentinian, Indian, Korean, and more.

Evan chose a vegetarian Bengali class for the two of us.

And that’s how we found ourselves deep in Bay Ridge, a few weeks ago, in the cozy home of a woman named Afsari.

The workshop started with a snack of tea and samosas, while Afsari told Evan, three other students and me a little about herself. She’s from Bangladesh and has one son. In addition to teaching with the League of Kitchens, she’s also a cooking instructor at the nonprofit Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York. She caters events, as well. Afsari’s signature dish, which she described to us with pride, is rice pudding, which takes two hours to make.The plan was to make that rice pudding, as well as some other items. The menu for the day was quite ambitious:

  • Palak Paneer (spiced spinach with homemade farmer’s cheese)
  • Gobi Masala (cauliflower and potato in a spiced tomato and coconut sauce)
  • Begun Pora (roasted eggplant with mustard oil)
  • Plain Chapati (flat bread)
  • Firni (rice pudding)

I could see why the workshop was 5.5 hours long!

Afsari started us on various tasks: slicing vegetables, shelling pistachios, cutting herbs.

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

She’d demonstrate how to do something…

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

…like frying eggplant in a cast iron skillet, stirring rice pudding, or rolling and heating bread…

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

…and then we’d jump in.

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

Hours later, once all the dishes were complete, we sat down to enjoy everything we’d created.

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

For me, the food was like cleaner, healthier versions of the food found at most local Indian places.

The palak paneer and, of course, the rice pudding were my favorites. And everything tasted even better the day after, once the flavors had some time to meld in.

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

The class was understandably a bit pricey, so it’s not something I could see myself doing frequently. But for a special occasion or couple’s activity, it was definitely a fun and tasty way to spend the afternoon.

A Long Weekend in New Orleans

I try to take an end-of-year trip each time I find myself with a few unused vacation days in November or December.

In 2013, I put my last two days towards a trip to London. At the end of 2014, Evan and I spent a long weekend in New Orleans, right before the holidays.

I had high hopes for a Christmassy trip, with warm, humid weather in the low 70s. Unfortunately, it was chilly, rainy and cloudy for our entire trip.

Still, we had a great time—it’s hard not to, in NOLA! The city is unlike anywhere else: gorgeous architecture, a European vibe, great music and lots and lots of amazing food!

Evan and I flew in on Thursday night. We checked into our B and B, the Green House Inn, on Magazine Street…

Green House Inn, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

Green House Inn, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

…and settled into our room.

Green House Inn, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

We were starving, but since it was after 10 p.m., most restaurants were closed. So we headed right to Bourbon Street. Our first stop was Killer Poboys, a little shop run out of the divey Erin Rose Bar. We both inhaled shrimp poboys (which were prepared banh mi style, with shredded carrots, cilantro and Sriracha aioli) and Abitas.

Killer Poboys, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com Afterwards, we poured the rest of my beer into a to-go cup, and walked down Bourbon Street. (Another reason I love NOLA—it’s kind of nice to walk down the street with your drink!) We ducked into a few bars, and Evan got one of those infamous hand grenade drinks.

Of course, we couldn’t leave the French Quarter without getting beignets. We topped off our night with a few, plus cafe au laits, at Cafe Du Monde.

Cafe DuMonde, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com Beignets | nycexpeditionist.com The next morning was chilly and gloomy. We walked down Magazine Street to Mother’s, a NOLA institution that opened in 1938. The restaurant is super-casual, and known for its ham.

Mothers, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

You walk in, grab a menu, and wait on line to give your order at the counter. Afterwards, you take your number, find a table and wait for someone to bring you your food.

We were lucky—since it was a rainy weekday, there was only a short line. But on weekends, it can span all the way out the door and down the block.

Evan and I shared a crawfish etouffee omelet, a biscuit and a side of Mother’s famous ham. That omelet was one of the best things we ate on the trip. The etouffee was rich and went perfectly with the eggs.

By the time we finished eating, a steady, chilly rain was falling.

Mothers, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

Wandering through the neighborhoods to check out the architecture wasn’t an option. So we decided to ride the streetcar through the Garden District and scope out the grand homes adorned for Christmas.

Unfortunately, I walked us past the streetcar stop a few times. I hadn’t realized that not all stops are obvious—like at Saint Charles and Poydras, if there’s no streetcar coming, regular cars drive right in that lane! After we found the stop, we waited nearly a half hour for a streetcar to arrive. By the time it did, we were soaked.

Still, we tried to take in as much as we could, through the wet, foggy windows.

Garden district home, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

We rode the car to the end of the Saint Charles line, and back. At that point, we were hungry for lunch. We opted for Peche, the latest restaurant from renowned NOLA chef Donald Link. True to its name, it specialized in seafood.

It was the perfect meal for a soaked, chilled couple. Everything we ate was fabulous and fresh—Gulf oysters, gumbo, catfish and greens in chili broth, shrimp over pasta in an Asian-style bolognese.

Oysters at Peche, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com And chocolate banana cream pie! I would go back to NOLA just for a slice of that.

Afterwards, we walked back to the Green House Inn. We were tired and cold from being in the rain all day. Luckily, the inn had a (clothing-optional!) pool and hot tub in the backyard, surrounded by plants.

Green House Inn, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

Green House Inn, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

That night, we weren’t too hungry because we’d been eating all day. But we felt we couldn’t miss out on a NOLA dinner. We cabbed it to Jacques Imo’s. I loved the place, from the moment we walked in. The main dining room felt like you were at a friend’s house. Strings of Christmas lights hung from the walls and the table cloths had funky patterns. The overall vibe was warm and cozy.

I wish I could go back and re-eat everything we had that night—when I wasn’t drained and slightly stuffed. Because it was all outstanding. We started with a piece of cornbread, followed by their house salad—a bed of baby spinach with one fried oyster on top. I have to say, it was the best fried oyster I’ve ever eaten.

For our entrees, I had shrimp etouffee—which was completely different from the etouffee we had that morning. It was lighter in a tomato-based sauce. Evan had stuffed catfish. Somehow, we finished everything.

Jacques Imo's, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

The next day, we left the city to go swamp kayaking. The rain had stopped, though it was still cloudy and chilly. We booked a trip through New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours, and drove 40 minutes to Pearl River.

Driving to Pearl River | nycexpeditionist.com We met our kayaking group at a rest stop off the highway. Talk about swamp country! The rest stop looked exactly how you’d imagine one in the Louisiana boonies. Our group leader, who had grown up right on that swamp, helped load us into kayaks. Evan and I shared one, he in the back, me in the front.

Swamp kayaking, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com Since it was December, the swamp was mostly bare and grey. It had a quiet beauty, though.

Swamp kayaking, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com Swamp kayaking, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

We paddled among cypresses and tupelos.

Swamp kayaking, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com Swamp kayaking, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com Swamp kayaking, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

Occasionally, we came across abandoned boats and river shacks.

Swamp kayaking, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com Swamp kayaking, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com Unfortunately, we didn’t see any alligators.

Except in sausage form.

After kayaking back to the rest stop, our guide told us that the gas station there actually serves great alligator sausages. We had to try one—and she was right! It was delicious.

Later that evening, we went to Bacchanal, a place two of my co-workers had visited on separate trips and raved about. It’s located on a corner in the Bywater, an area I find romantic and mysterious. I was hoping to walk around and check out the architecture, but that didn’t happen this trip. Still, I was glad we spent the evening there. Because Bacchanal is truly a special place. It’s a wine and cheese shop in the front, where you can sample wines and buy a glass. You can also pick out cheeses that they’ll plate for you. You then enjoy both, plus other food from their kitchen, and live music, in the backyard. Cheese plate at Bacchanal, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com On the night we were there, a band was playing NOLA-style Christmas music. (And you know how much I love Christmas.) A drummer, tuba player and violinist played jazzy, melancholy takes on the classics.

Bacchanal, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com Evan and I lingered for a while, just enjoying the sounds, food and overall atmosphere. I’d been wanting to experience a bit of Christmas in New Orleans, and I found it at Bacchanal.

We left when the band was winding down, but headed right to Cafe Du Monde. We couldn’t leave NOLA without another round of beignets. 

Cafe Du Monde, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

Cafe Du Monde, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

Favorite Destination of 2014: San Sebastian, Spain

Of all the places I visited this year, one was my clear favorite: San Sebastian, Spain.

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

It was one of those rare cities where I felt I could actually live.

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

My family and I spent a few days there, on the tail end of our Spain trip.

I was so glad it worked out that way. San Sebastian definitely closed our vacation on a high note.

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

San Sebastian is one of those rare beach towns that feels cosmopolitan.

It has historic buildings, great shops and restaurants, and a river running through it. (It reminded me a bit of Boston and Cambridge.)

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Gorgeous beaches flanked by hills make up its coastline. And the city has an active vibe that I loved: I saw so many surfers, bikers and runners.

Zurriola Beach, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

San Sebastian also has some of the most unique, inventive and delicious food I’ve come across during my travels. The city is Spain’s unofficial pintxos capitol—small bites served in bars, alongside txakoli, an effervescent Basque wine.

Atari Gastroteka, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

But more about pintxos in a few.

Hotel Okako, a small boutique, was our home base.

Hotel Okako, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

The rooms were tiny, but clean, comfortable and artfully decorated. (That’s my single, below.)

Hotel Okako, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

It was in an ideal location, just minutes from Zurriola beach and Parte Vieja, the old town.

On our first day, one of Okako’s employees recommended Bodega Donostiarra, a restaurant just a few blocks away.

Bodega Donostiarra, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

We had a delicious lunch that included prawns and rice…

Prawns and rice, Bodega Donostiarra, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Bodega Donostiarra, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

…and seafood skewers.

Bodega Donostiarra, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

It was a fantastic first meal in San Seb. And so good that we actually went back two days later for more tortilla…

Tortilla, Bodega Donostiarra, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

…blood sausage…

Blood sausage, Bodega Donostiarra, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

…and veal ribs.

Veal ribs, Bodega Donostiarra, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Bodega Donostiarra, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

On our second morning in town, my mom, E and I walked along San Sebastian’s beaches…

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

…to the funicular at the edge of town.

Funicular, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Funicular, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

We rode it to the top of the hill…

Funicular, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

…and arrived at a bird’s eye view of the city.

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

There was also a children’s amusement park that was closed.

Amusement Park, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Amusement Park, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Amusement Park, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Too bad. I kind of wanted a trip through the Casa del Terror. (Muah ha ha ha.)

Amusement Park, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

We made sure to have a few hours of beach time, each day.

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

One afternoon was warm and sunny—we all took advantage of it, and enjoyed long, post-lunch naps.

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

But since it was early October, not every day was bikini weather. Two afternoons were chillier.

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

That still worked for me—I didn’t mind bundling up to nap.

Because I needed to rest up for going pintxo bar hopping each night!

It’s hard to capture the essence and allure of pintxos in words. I didn’t really get what was so great until we actually experienced them in San Sebastián.

But I can best describe the scene like this: Imagine a number of bars in one area of town. (In San Seb, they’re mainly in Parte Vieja.) When you walk into each bar, you’re faced with some of the prettiest, most delicious-looking platters of finger food that you’ve ever seen. You can order short glasses of txakoli or beer, and tell the bartender which pieces you want from the platters. Plus, you’ll order one of their hot specialties, which is also about the size of an amuse bouche.

When you’re done eating, you’ll throw your napkins on the floor, then pay your tab. (The amount of crumpled napkins is a good indication of how good the food is.)

Then, you’ll continue from bar to bar, sampling food from each.

We did this all three nights we were in town.

Our favorite pintxo bars included:

Zeruko, a stylish, modern bar with updated takes on pintxos—each plate was so pretty and elegant!

Bar Zeruko, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

We tried several pintxos: octopus, blood sausage topped with egg, marinated mushrooms topped with egg.

Bar Zeruko, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Bar Zeruko, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Borda Barri looked like a dive bar, but had a surprisingly sophisticated menu: veal cheeks, duck breast, mushroom risotto, sweetbread ravioli.

Borda Berri, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Borda Berri, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Not surprisingly, it was crowded every time we went there. (And it was on our hit list, all three nights.)

Borda Berri, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

At Bar Ganbera, the platters of fresh mushrooms beckoned.

Bar Ganbera, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

We tried them grilled…

Bar Ganbera, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

…along with grilled prawns.

Bar Ganbera, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

We were clearly happy with our selections.

Bar Ganbera, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Bar Ganbera, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Bar Nestor is known for two things: tortilla and steak. To get a slice of the tortilla, you have to arrive early and put your name on a list. Same with the steak. You have to be there close to when they start serving, to get a seat at the bar or a table outside. We managed the latter.

Bar Nestor, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

From our table, we could order txakolis through the window. (Note the pour: Basque bartenders always serve the drink a couple feet above the glass.)

Bar Nestor, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

We enjoyed each of Nestor’s specialities as they arrived. First the tortilla, which was as delicious as it was hyped up to be.

Tortilla, Bar Nestor, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

The the tomato salad—fresh and delicious with lot of olive oil and flaky salt…

Tomato salad, Bar Nestor, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

…followed by charred peppers…

Peppers, Bar Nestor, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

…and then the famous steak, also perfectly cooked and simply seasoned with more of that flaky salt.

Steak, Bar Nestor, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Atari Gastroteka, a hopping bar with an innovative menu, had one of my favorite pintxos: a slow cooked egg in a pea puree.

Atari Gastroteka, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Atari Gastroteka, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Atari was in a prime location, right across from the gorgeous Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus.

Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Outside of Parte Vieja, we had amazing pintxos at Bar Bergara.

Bar Bergara, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

I couldn’t get enough of their tortilla or risotto.

Bar Bergara, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Bar Bergara, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Pintxo-crawling was some of the most fun I had with my family: Deciding which bars to try, picking out pintxos, savoring the flavor combinations in a setting that’s unlike anything in the States.

Peter, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

M&H, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Pintxo-hopping, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Pintxo-hopping, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

(We talked about what the scene would be like if someone transported San Sebastian’s pintxo bars to NYC: crowded. Unbearably crowded and expensive.)

I feel incredibly lucky to have shared that experience, in such an awesome city, with some of my very favorite people. My family doesn’t often take big vacations together, so I’m thrilled that our Spain trip turned out to be so wonderful.

Fam, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

I’m looking forward to more memorable journeys in 2015. Here’s to many travels in the new year!

And wishing Mal, my sister, my very best friend and other half, a happy birthday—it’s her big 3-0 today!

Dinner in NY: Intimate Portraits of New Yorkers Eating

When you’re eating dinner, what’s your usual set-up? Do you eat alone or with your partner? Are there kids in the picture? Do you sit at a kitchen table or a couch? Do you watch TV or check your phone or surf the web while you eat?

Your dinner habits, in a way, reflect who you are. Photographer Miho Aikawa explores that in her Dinner in NY project. According to Aikawa:

Having dinner isn’t just about eating food, or even about nutrition. It reveals so many aspects of our lives, much more than lunch or even breakfast would. And because dinnertime is usually private, it uniquely reveals a part of a person’s lifestyle.

Aikawa’s intimate photos also demonstrate how much technology has changed the ways people people enjoy supper. Many diners are eating in front of a TV or laptop.

A few of my favorite shots:

Garro Heedae, a musician, has dinner late at night after intensive drum rehearsal sessions. Age: 28. Time: 1:20 a.m. Location: Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn.

Garro Heedae, a musician, has dinner late at night after intensive drum rehearsal sessions. Age: 28. Time: 1:20 a.m. Location: Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn.

Zheng Yun lives with her daughter and son, but usually eats dinner alone while watching TV. Age: 52. Time: 8:54 p.m.  Location: Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn.

Zheng Yun lives with her daughter and son, but usually eats dinner alone while watching TV. Age: 52. Time: 8:54 p.m. Location: Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn.

Jessie Zinke, a designer, has leftover for dinner on her bed while watching her favorite TV show. Age: 27. Time: 6:54 p.m. Location: Chelsea, New York.

Jessie Zinke, a designer, has leftover for dinner on her bed while watching her favorite TV show. Age: 27. Time: 6:54 p.m. Location: Chelsea, New York.

U Pa Mok Kha is a monk from Myanmar who cannot eat after noon. Local people bring him food and after he is done, he shares the rest of the food with them. Age: 55. Time: 11:17 a.m. Location: Jackson Heights, Queens.

U Pa Mok Kha is a monk from Myanmar who cannot eat after noon. Local people bring him food and after he is done, he shares the rest of the food with them. Age: 55. Time: 11:17 a.m. Location: Jackson Heights, Queens.

Chelsea Olson, a model, concentrates on her food while reviewing her busy day. Age: 20. Time: 8:13 p.m. Location: Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn.

Chelsea Olson, a model, concentrates on her food while reviewing her busy day. Age: 20. Time: 8:13 p.m. Location: Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn.

See even more photos—and stories—on Aikawa’s site.

I’m such a creature of habit, that I know exactly how my dinner photo would look: Each night, around 10-10:30, after ballet, I sit on my living room floor, on a big cushion, and eat at my coffee table. My meal usually involves veggies and eggs (poached eggs in a spinach soup, huevos rancheros, scrambled eggs with a side of sauteed greens). The room is dark, with one dim lamp on, and I’m watching Top Chef or So You Think You Can Dance? on DVR. My hair is pulled back in a bun, and I’m wearing a tank top and shorts.

How would your dinner photo look?

(Images by Miho Aikawa; found via Fast Co. Design)

Food Envy: Girl Eat World

The Girl Eat World Instagram account is amazing.

Each photo features a unique food item taken in the place where it’s from.

The creator of the account is Melissa, an avid traveler from Singapore. As she describes it on her Tumblr:

Last summer, I went on a solo backpacking trip to Europe. I didn’t feel like asking strangers to take pictures of me and I’m not too fond of selfies, but I AM always eating so I took pictures of food at whatever memorable site I was in.

Such a simple yet brilliant idea.

Schnitzel in front of the Mozart statue in #vienna

A post shared by ❤️ Mel's Food & Travel log (@girleatworld) on

I especially love the whimsical desserts.

Now can anyone tell me where I can get this kind of durian ice cream sandwich in NYC?

(Images via Girl Eat World)

4 Great Places to Eat in Philly

Last week, Evan, the special guy in my life, had a special birthday. (The big 4-0!) And since there’s no better way to celebrate than by getting out of town, that’s exactly what we did.

Due to our schedules, we only had 24 hours to go somewhere over the weekend. So I narrowed our options to places within a two-hour drive from NYC. Since we’d recently taken trips to Hudson, NY; Vermont and the Berkshires, we knocked similar destinations out of the running. (And yes, I will post some photos and recaps from those trips, soon! :)) Evan wasn’t interested in Atlantic City. And Boston and D.C. were a little too far for a 24-hour trip. We decided to head to Philadelphia, a city that most of us New Yorkers often neglect to explore, despite it being less than two hours away.

Unfortunately, it rained the entire time we were there. As a result, our plans for wandering around different neighborhoods were quashed.

On the upside, we ate some really good meals and otherwise relaxed in our hotel room. (We stayed at the Four Seasons—excellent service and big rooms, but definitely old school decor.)

Here’s where we ate:

Barbuzzo

barbuzzo interior

Our dinner reservation was actually for Sbraga, but we arrived in town too late to dine there. (Sbraga stops serving at 11—and we weren’t ready to head over until then.) So we went to Barbuzzo, a Mediterranean place that serves dinner until midnight. We were pretty happy with how that worked out!

The place was still hopping when we arrived at 11:30. All the pizzas, pastas and small plates on the menu looked delicious and we had a hard time narrowing our options down to a few dishes. We opted for a charcuterie board, a pizza with spicy wild boar sausage, and—my favorite plate of the evening—butternut arancini.

bb_charcuterie

For desert, we shared a salted caramel budino—a decadent custard over a dark chocolate crust, topped with rich caramel.

bb_budino

While our server could have been friendlier, I couldn’t have been happier with the food. I’d make a trip back to Philly just for the arancini and budino!

 

Wedge + Fig

Evan and I can both eat cheese until the cows come home (har har). So when choosing a brunch spot, we both gravitated to Wedge + Fig, a cheese shop in Old City that also serves meals.

wedge + fig

Inside, the space is sunny and cheery, and our server was super-friendly. While it seemed like a travesty not to get an ultra cheesy dish, I was seduced by the NOLA—poached eggs on top of homemade cornbread. Luckily, Evan’s strata had more than enough cheese, and I helped myself to a good deal of it.

 

Sonny’s Famous Cheesesteaks

Of course we couldn’t leave Philly without getting  cheesesteak. Right before getting back on the road to NYC, we stopped at Sonny’s, which Alan Richman and several other critics recently declared, in GQ, had the best cheesesteaks.

Evan and I split one cheesesteak with onions, peppers and provolone. (I know, Philly natives! I couldn’t bring myself to order Cheez Whiz!) It was really tasty, with a nice kick from the peppers. The sandwich was also surprisingly light and not a bit greasy—we devoured it in minutes. And had this conversation:

Evan: That was so good. I could seriously eat another one.

Me: God, so could I. Um, there’s actually another cheesesteak place a few doors down. Should we get another one there?

I’m sure you could guess what we decided to do.

 

Campo’s Deli

campos

A few minutes later, at Campo’s, we ordered almost the exact same sandwich: a Philly cheesesteak with provolone, onions, peppers and mushrooms. Evan and I ate it on the ride back to NYC. Campo’s sandwich was more of what we expected a cheesesteak to be: juicy and heavy. The mushrooms gave it a nice, rich flavor. Though overall, I preferred the lighter version at Sonny’s.

We’ll have to go back to Philly when it’s not pouring and chilly, and explore the city beyond its restaurants. But we definitely had an awesome time eating our way through our 24 hours there. (And Evan, I hope you had a very happy bday trip!! xoxo)

(Images via Barbuzzo, Wedge + Fig, TripAdvisor and Yelp)