NYC

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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Must-Follow Instagram Account: @NewYorkAirBook

I’m a huge George Steinmetz fan.

The photographer is known for his amazing aerial shots and is currently working on a book of NYC images.

I linked to some of his NYC photos last summer, and discovered a new trove of his work via his @newyorkairbook Instagram account. (He actually shot the photo of that amazing West Village rooftop cabin that I posted yesterday.)

A few of my favorite photos below, though his whole account is definitely worth a browse and follow.

(Images by George Steinmetz via @newyorkairbook)

Country Cottages in NYC

As a native New Yorker, I’ve spent most of my life believing that I’d always live in Manhattan—or at the very least, one of the boroughs.

Only recently have I started feeling a bit worn from city living. The crowds and subway are exhausting, and I’d like a little more space, sunshine and fresh air. I’ve wondered whether I could actually move to a small house somewhere in the Hudson Valley.

And then I think about all the things that keep me here: daily ballet classes with great teachers and accompanists. The convenience of a 24-hour city. Being able to eat any type of cuisine I’m craving.

This week, I found a solution to my dilemma, via Gothamist. They’ve uncovered country-style cottages atop NYC buildings, one in the East Village

5evcottageenvy15

…and one in the West Village.

cabininthesky15

How amazing do they look? Sure, there’s less green space than you’d find upstate. But how nice would it be to enjoy the benefits of the city while relaxing in your own little cottage?

Now if only I could afford one!

(Photos via Gothamist)

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.

Someone You Love: A Feel-Good NYC Project

While we’re on the topic of delightful participatory art, I’m also smitten by the “Someone You Love” project.

Matt Adams, formerly the videographer for Improv Everywhere (remember this awesome conducting stunt?), recently asked New Yorkers to do three things: call, write to and kiss someone they love. He captured their reactions, which are priceless.

For “Call Someone You Love,” Adams taped quarters to a Brooklyn phone booth and put up a sign asking people to do just that.

Call Someone You Love

Call Someone You Love

Call Someone You Love

Call Someone You Love

For “Write Someone You Love,” he invited New Yorkers in Central Park to draw on postcards, which he then mailed.

Write Someone You Love

Write Someone You Love

Write Someone You Love

Write Someone You Love

Write Someone You Love

“Kiss Someone You Love” is my favorite. I wish I had been in McCarren Park the day Adams was there!

Kiss Someone You Love

Kiss Someone You Love

Kiss Someone You Love

Kiss Someone You Love

I’m all for public art that brings happiness to the streets of NYC and reminds people how lucky they are to have loved ones in their lives. Bravo!

(Images via Someone You Love; found via SwissMiss)

NYC and Asia Mini Notebooks

I’ll admit that I rarely use notebooks or pens anymore, but these smartly designed mini notebooks charmed me.

MINI CITY NOTEBOOKS SET - NY & ASIA

I love the city street grid and Chrysler building on the NYC notebooks…

MINI CITY NOTEBOOKS SET - NY & ASIA

…and the lucky cats on the Tokyo ones!

MINI CITY NOTEBOOKS SET - NY & ASIA

There are also Seoul and Osaka notebooks; check them out here.

(Images via Poketo)