Wednesday, February 19, 2014

1213 NYC - picture overload

Towards the end of last year, I counted up my remaining vacation days and decided to put them all towards a trip across the country - to one of the most notable cities in the country; New York City! Even though I've been living in the United States all this time and been to four of the seven continents, I've never even been to the Big Apple. So I convinced my traveling partner Timon that it was time to do just that. 

I do have a ton of pictures and thought about splitting this up into two posts, but then decided against it. We're going to do this in one breath. Some of these pic-collages won't really make sense, but I did this in the middle of the night, with just me and some hard cider, so I couldn't really be nitpicky.

After we landed in JFK, we grabbed a cab ride to Murray Hill and checked into our short-term corporate housing apartment rental, secured through a good work friend.

1 bedroom apartment in Murray Hill; small but modern
Our '1 bedroom' was almost a studio, except the sleeping area did have sliding walls to enclose the bedroom, and there were separate living, dining, and kitchen spaces. What more could a yuppie need, in terms of living space?

Day 1
I don't have much to show in terms of outfits, since I pretty much wore the same few items over and over again all week long. With my North Face jacket, peacoat, Hunter boots, & over-the-knee boots, I really did not have space in my carry-on for much else. Yes, I only traveled with my carry-on luggage, duffel, and a handbag. I think that's packing on the moderate side for winter apparel.
ignore my tired face and wet hair
H&M Plaid Shirt (similar)
Ever Jeans
Hunter Champery Crest Wedge Rain Boots (original)
Amazon Rain Boot Liners

I purchased my Hunter boots from Hautelook for a whopping $40 about a year ago. Even though weather in San Francisco is mild and most of the time, any pair of boots would suffice in the rain, I purchased these knowing they would come in handy for harsher climates. For $40, I was practically competing with Target prices. I will say that the shaft height comes up pretty high on my short, stubby legs and caused a little discomfort around the knee area after walking in them for days on end. Also, the footbed is really long and narrow, kind of an awkward foot shape for me, because I have wide and small feet. The 3-inch wedge, however, was no problem at all to walk in, and I had plenty of opportunities to test them out in rain and snow.
I was unwilling to shell out money for Hunter's rain boot liners and resorted to doing a quick Amazon search and thank goodness for their 2-day shipping, otherwise my legs would be swimming in the boots.

Don't worry I also threw on my trusty North Face jacket, a scarf, and some gloves on before heading out the door. Getting dressed sure took me longer than usual. 

Then we were off to our first tourist destination! We took the train over to Brooklyn and meandered a bit in the Dumbo area before walking the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan. On the way back, it started to rain. It wasn't long before it started to really pour.

Brooklyn Bridge
We weren't the only ones braving the weather.
Once we got back, we sought shelter in a Starbucks. In fact, we sought shelter in Starbucks plenty of times throughout this trip. Later that night, we had dinner at Joe's Shanghai with Dan! We ordered a lot, but were eager to eat, and not so eager to document.
Get a dumpling, a little vinegar dipping sauce, take a bite, blow out the steam, drink the soup, and pop the rest of the dumpling in your mouth!
Now I'm not saying I am a xiao long bao / Shanghai dumpling snob, but I've been eating these dumplings since I was born. Plus I am from Shanghai (born in the U. S. of A. though), I speak the Shanghai dialect, and my entire family was born in Shanghai, so I think I know a thing or two about these.
While these suckers from Joe's Shanghai were delicious, don't get me wrong, they just aren't 'authentic.' I hate using the A word, because it's so vague and meaningless. In my opinion, these are more of an Americanized, super-sized type of dumpling. Each dumpling was nearly the size of a small burger, the skin is thicker than I am used to. On the other hand, the meat in each bao is a generous size, and there is plenty of soup encased in each one (see pic above), so I did walk away feeling full and satisfied.
Tim fell head over heels for these. I think he said 'best xiao long baos (he) ever had,' but he's not the connoisseur that I am. 

After dinner, Dan took us to a speakeasy, Angel's Share, I believe it was called. We like the relaxed atmosphere, because it allows for a decent conversation to take place. I ordered a Riesling. I don't know what Tim ordered, but it came in a cool chilled mug. 

Day 2

The next morning, Dan introduced us to Penelope. There was a long line, so Dan was smart enough to find a coffee place for us to hole up in until they texted to let us know our table was ready.
I ordered the Salmon Wrapped Poached Eggs & Cranberry Bellini. It's hard for me to say no to salmon or poached eggs, so naturally I didn't step out of my usual comfort breakfast dish, even though this is something I could have made, and I have before. It was nonetheless, a very satisfying first meal of the day. Dan ordered the same, and Tim ordered the Farmer's Market Omelette with Brie and it was delicious.

We then re-bundled up and took our full stomachs over to the American Museum of Natural History. 

Fatigued from exploring the entirety of the museum and all its wonders, we stepped out right before sunset and got cookies from Levain
Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip & Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip
These cookies are huge! Tim and I could have just shared one, but we wanted (okay I wanted) more options. We did in fact finish them and walked away with satisfied sweet tooths and feeling weighed down. We then went back to the apartment to bundle up some more and recharge.

Almost all of my clothes are old.
eBay Beanie
Black Cardigan (just recently purchased and love this)
Hollister Yellow T-Shirt
Ever Jeans
H&M Scarf
Victoria's Secret Blue Peacoat (I added blue silver buttons from eBay.)
Big Buddha Faux Fur Clutch

Tim and I went back out to explore and picked up some grub from the Halal Guys cart. We claimed seats in front of Rockefeller Center and ate our dinner and people watched. I was getting pretty full right when this guy (presumably homeless) asks me if I could share my food with him. I gave him the remainders of my lamb platter and wished him happy holidays. Besides, how could I say no?
It's hard to get a picture of the giant tree among all the people! Home Alone does a better job of capturing its grandeur.
We found ourselves in Toys R Us
Say hello to Minion Tim & the big green guy!
I had a hard time getting that money shot of Times Square. It was Saturday night, super crowded and super bright.
Day 3

Unable to wake ourselves early, and with an appetite for some East coast fast food and East coast sites, we made our way over to Central Park and over to the Shake Shack
Shake Shack's burgers are tasty, but in my opinion, it's okayyy. Got nothin on In 'n' Out (and I'm not even a die hard In 'n' Out fan).

Central Park is beautiful. It started snowing minutes after I took these pictures, and then it became a winter wonderland! It's much more open than Golden Gate Park. GGP is more dense, lush, and full of greenery. You can definitely get lost in GGP's nooks & crannies if you're not familiar with the park. Central Park has more wide open spaces and you can see the city beyond the edges of the park.

While we were in the area, we picked up some macarons from Laduree. They are very much worth the hype. The consistency, the flakiness, the flavor, & even their packaging are all done very well. Customer service could be stepped up a notch. 

Then we walked down Madison Ave back to our apartment. I love the walkability of NYC. Along the way, it started snowing. I've never seen such a perfect snowflake and had to take a picture. As we walked through the endless shops, I stopped to give a glance to all the window displays and formed a snowball. Somewhere between finding my way through the crowds, taking pictures, and being a complete tourist, I lost one of my gloves. So we stopped by H&M to get some cold weather accessories. 

That night, we had dinner at Tiffin Wallah with Dan and met some new people. Somehow all of us omnivores & carnivores overlooked the fact that TW is a vegetarian restaurant. Nonetheless, we still enjoyed our family-style meal. The giant horn shaped crepe is the Paper Dosa. I don't really recall what else we had. I usually let other people order at Indian restaurants, because it goes over my head.

Before the night ended, we got some dessert at Grace Street, where I was introduced to Ho-Dduk for the first time, a Korean-style doughnut with melted brown sugar, cinnamon, and walnuts. I was too stuffed but did try a bite with ice cream. It was a little dense, but sweet and tasty. I was more intrigued by the removable bricks in the walls.

Day 4

more sweaters, tights, and rain boots
hat, scarf, gloves, coat thrown on prior to leaving the warmth of shelter

Another day, another museum. On this day, we chose to head over to the Museum of Modern Art. We didn't give ourselves time to grab anything to eat prior to MoMA, so we ate at the cafe, which was actually pretty good, but overpriced, of course.  

Herb Roasted Chicken Panini & The Meatballs were a special item
@ the MoMA: giant rose, clock, Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World, & tiled mirrors
I've seen this picture of the woman in the grass many times before, but every time I see it, I feel drawn to it, like the woman is reaching for something she can't have.

That night, we had another dinner with Dan at Nyonya. I had had laksa once when I was in Australia, but the laksa dish has evaded me ever since, so I went in search of this curry noodle dish in NY. I was willing to settle for any type of curry noodles, pho, udon, whatever. I'm kind of a noodle soup addict. They did not have the curry laksa, but they did have Asam Laksa (spicy & sour fish noodle soup), which we tried and I neglected to take a picture. It was okay, but the sour flavor didn't really go well with the other curry dishes we ordered. Other than that, the food here is very good, but my pictures don't do the dishes justice.

We also ordered (L-R):
  • Braised Duck with Lotus Seed: so tender & sweet. Admittedly, I didn't know what lotus seeds were, but it seems like they are just chestnuts.
  • Beef Rendaang: so tender, excellent curry flavor
  • Roti Canai: ah, every Asian region has their own style of pancakes. This one is very thin, so it easily takes up the flavor of the delicious curry. However, the curry had only one piece of beef and one potato, so it made sharing a little difficult. 
We also had coconut rice & watercress to go along with these dishes. Delicious.

We then moseyed over to Kung Fu Tea to chat about everything and nothing until they were ready to close and kicked us out. You'd think we'd be done eating, but when we got back to the apartment, Tim and I split this Black & White Milkshake Cupcake from Crumbs Bake Shop. Frosting - good, cupcake - good, sprinkly decorative crap - don't need that. It was slightly dry, but that might be because we put it in the fridge prior to heading out for dinner. Tim also tried their Crumbnut (their take on Cronuts?), but it tasted really dense to me, like cinammon sugar sprinkled on hard bread. 

The following day, we got a Crack Pie & Compost Cookie from Momofuku Milk Bar. Tim had heard rave reviews for the crack pie (sorry no picture), but it didn't really appeal to me, because I don't really like caramel. It was basically hard caramel on pie crust with powdered sugar on top. The cookie was not bad.

Day 5

H&M Black Turtleneck
Forever21 Purple Faux Leather Skirt
Hunter Champery Crest Wedge Rain Boots (original)

On this snowy day, we decided to spend it indoors exploring the Metropolitan Museum of Art, while the rest of the NY became blanketed in fresh snow. Once again, we ran short on time and resorted to museum dining. It was very expensive and very not good.

Left: Tim being on a goofball. Right: My reaction, lol
Out of all the museums we visited, the Met was our favorite. There was so much to see, learn, read, explore, etc. The fortress it was did tire us out. We left around closing time. By then. we were both tired and our bodies were starting to feel like the statue of this crying lady shown above.

By evening time, the snow had let up, so I switched into my OTK boots. Once again, we met up Dan for dinner. We didn't feel like going out, so we picked up some grub from Crif Dogs
So I heard that hot dogs are supposed to be a big thing in NY, & with 4 stars on Yelp & 1400 reviews, how could we go wrong? Well, there's really nothing special about these dogs. The buns are whatever, the dogs themselves were okay. I guess they get points for their various combinations of toppings and being creative with the naming process, but there were so many different choices, that it just felt overwhelming, considering they were basically different combinations of the same ingredients. Also, the hot dogs are expensive, think theme park prices.

Now, the cool part about this place? Well, first there's a condom machine. Plus, the phone booth there connects to the speakeasy bar, Please Don't Tell. So grab a dog, make a phone call, and see who answers.

Instead, we each grabbed a drink from a nearby specialty liquor store and headed over to Dan's place to chow down on Crif Dogs. Somehow we stayed until the wee hours of the morning and watched the entire first season of Walking Dead. Thankfully, Dan was such a good host for letting us stay so late.

Day 6

We definitely woke up late the next morning. We got ready and walked over to the Empire State Building. This area is a zoo, but come on, it's the Empire State Building. I can't go all the way to New York and not pay this icon a visit.
Hello Chrysler Building and that tiny little island way off in the distance... that's the Statue of Liberty.

By the time, we left ESB, we were hungry and made our way over to Turntable Mad for Chicken. Turns out it's a lounge and probably draws quite a crowd at night, but we were there very late in the afternoon. Too late for lunch, still a bit too early to get your drink on, so we were one of the only people there, which was nice. Plus, we got cozy seats by the furnace.
When you check in on Yelp, you get a free litchi shot. Can't say no to that. To eat, we got kimchi fried rice (so good, better than I expected for just a fried rice dish!) & a dozen chicken wings - half hot & spicy, half soy garlic (delicious!). Wish I could start off every day with chicken wings and beer. 

Then we walked off the calories and had a nice, quiet stroll at the High Line. After some more walking, we were freezing our limbs off.
So naturally we sought refuge from the cold at a Doughnut Plant. I don't remember which ones we ate. Most of the time, I'm not into doughnuts. These are really huge. I'd wait for a time when you have a hearty appetite if you're looking to try them out. I had about half of one. Tim loves donuts, so he polished off the other 1.5 donuts.

For dinner, we ate at Totto Ramen. Dan said this is the best ramen ever. I haven't had enough ramen to make the same claims, but I'd imagine this place is up there. I met another one of their high school friends and she was so sweet she treated us to our noodles, which she totally did not have to do!
On our way up here, we actually took the train the wrong way, and ended up in Queens. It took a while to correct our path. Unfortunately, Dan was waiting in line, while we were getting lost. Ack, worst tourists ever! We expressed our apologies, but since we were late, we were seated right away by the time we got there, lol. The people crowding around the stairs and doorway did not look happy about that. 
Now, this place is tiny. I think the max occupancy is like 12 people. Good thing I'm a firm believer in hole-in-the-wall places. Why else would they have more people waiting in line than actual people eating inside?We sat at the bar and were entertained by the only two guys making food for everybody. 
Totto Miso Ramen
I got the Miso Ramen ($11) and Tim got the Paitan Ramen ($9.75). Turns out miso ramen is just Paitan ramen with a scoop of miso on top. Once you stir in the miso, you get a rich creamy broth. Pretty pricey for noodles, but I'm sure they could have charged more given that people are willing to wait in the freezing cold for good noodles. Plus they make each bowl individually and right before your eyes. Open kitchen tells me they have nothing to hide. It was so good on a cold night. I'm salivating just thinking about it.

Before the night ended, we got nice and toasty over some whiskey at a nearby bar before the trek home.

Day 7

We were in New York for over a week, but somehow we decided to go see the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island on the coldest day we were there. It was about 10 degrees and we were trying to stay warm on the ferry!
Isn't she a beauty?
I learned a lot from the video at Ellis Island Museum. It was also a plus that it was so nice and toasty in there. It was so nice and warm that Tim fell asleep during the presentation, lol. No appreciation for history! We would have explored more, but it was so cold, we had to go back home.

That night I went out for dinner with a friend, but Tim said he was tired of being cold and ordered himself a pizza. My friend had to work late, so I killed time by taking a selfie at Urban Outfitters.
Here's a hungry me thinking about Tim's pizza.
Victoria's Secret White Turtleneck Dress
H&M Scarf
Victoria's Secret Peacoat
OTK Boots

So I headed out and braved the cold weather alone. On the way there, I snapped a few pictures of Grand Central. After all, it was the 100th year anniversary.

My friend, Wanda, and I ate at Tony's DiNapoli. Near the entrance, there is a replica of the Chrysler Building, shown below.
With enormous family style portions and a tiny table for two, we barely had room on the table for both of our pasta dishes, let alone room in our tummies for all the food. I chose to get a white wine and linguine with clams and Wanda chose the bolognese. We barely made a dent in our food and boxed it up. Wanda was too nice and aggressively refused to let me pay for any of it. She was not having it, lol. I usually think all Italian food taste the same, but the pastas were delicious. Plus, our waiter was so funny. I had experience and would love to come back.

Day 8

Before we knew it, our trip was nearing its end. To express how sad I was about having to leave, I wore all black. lol jk, I was running out of clothes. To add to my sadness, this was the day our 7-day MetroCards were expired. 
This was one of my least fashionable thrown-together outfits, but at least the all black kind of hides my random combination of things.

I'm a ninja.
Forever21 Black Earmuffs
Forever21 Black Turtleneck Dress
Forever21 Men's Scarf (borrowed from Tim)
Urban Outfitters Fleece-Lined Tights
H&M Leg Warmers (similar)
Nike Free Runs

Dan takes semi-candid looking Polaroid of us. Best souvenir ever. Now, where did I put it?
Once again, we were running late, once we found out our MetroCards were kaput. So sorry Dan =[. We met Dan at Clinton Street Baking Company. Good thing Dan was working away on his laptop at a cafe across the street while waiting for Clinton to send a text about our table.
While we were there, we met a local couple. The wife was hilarious, even though she shared with us that she had just had surgery that morning, hence why she needed to get her grub on. Apparently when she used to work, she was an editor of Premiere magazine. In between giving us her life story, she complimented my outfit, lol.

Dan ordered a sausage & egg scramble; Tim the Blueberry Pancakes with Maple Butter; and I the crab cake sandwich, which I believe was one of the specials that day. In short, good, great, excellent, and oh my gosh these pancakes, I still think about them.
I know that they are known for their pancakes, but I can't usually eat an entire stack of pancakes. I prefer to have a savory meal and just one pancake on the side, but Clinton's pancakes ... I think I can eat a stack of these! Still, I am a true seafood lover, so I had to get the crab cake sandwich. Real crab, good breading, tasty sauce. Oh man, it sure got all over my hands, but it was so worth it.

Was it worth the 1+ hour wait? Well, considering it was our last day and we kept hearing people telling us it was a must-try, yeah I guess it was worth the wait. Definitely wouldn't be able to budget the time to do this on the regular.

Freedom Tower
It's very crowded and busy in this area. It is borderline tourist trap-y, but everyone wants to pay their respects and so did I, but we didn't have time to wait in line. Just looking at it sure does make you think about everything and how grateful we should all be for what we have. After all, what do any of us really have to complain about if we look at the big picture?

We spent the rest of the day just exploring SoHo. I tried on some leather jackets from Mango & Aritizia. 
Left: Mango Leather Biker Jacket
Right: Mackage Kenya Jacket
I really liked the Mackage one. I would like to invest in a real leather jacket, but until I find the one - the right style, buttery soft leather, but still somewhat structured, and well-fitting, I will not be throwing down a chunk of change.

Tim looks so happy to make his last visit to Laduree.
This was our last food stop of the entire trip and what a great way to end it. Expensive? Definitely. Worth it? Definitely.

We went back to the apartment to recharge. I had to put my OTK boots on, because my feet were freezing. Nike Free Runs are too lightweight and breathable for walking around in the cold! What was I thinking?

The last site we checked out was Top of the Rock. The views were amazing. As we went higher and higher, it only got better. Here, we witnessed a couple getting engaged. The man got down on one knee and revealed a rock at Top of the Rock, haha.
H&M is kind of an attention hog, huh?
The next day, we flew back home and resumed our lives. At least our winters are bearable. No one was sitting next to me, so I put my babies in the extra seat. The macarons and the Prada should be comfortable too.
We were quite lucky not to have any travel complications. The day we left, there was a bit of a storm. In fact, it was coming down so hard, a ton of flights were canceled, but not the ones going back to California. Tim's dad picked us up from the airport and took us to Wing Stop. After all this grubbing, I took a break from fried foods. 

New York was good to us, despite the blistering cold chill, and dryness that sucked the moisture out of my skin and hair. I can't wait to go back!!
Plus Tim was such a trooper for walking tirelessly with me through rain and snow. I'm surprised he didn't bail on me on account of exhaustion. 

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