New York City (part one)

New York (part one)

The title alone looks exciting right!  Just reading that gets a lot of people excited and rightfully so.  New York is one hell of place!

I organised this trip right on the 11th hour.  My good friend was going to be there and she knows New York really well and my mum and dad were going to be there to celebrate my mum’s 60th birthday which meant that that my sister was also going to the States to meet up with them, seeing she lived close by and to give my parents the opportunity to see their grand children and for me to hug my niece and nephew.  This was enough reason to convince me to go to NYC.

Since I was a kid, I have had a fascination with America.  I have a bucket list and on the America bucket list is to see Michael Jordan playing in Chicago, Bruins in Boston, Grand Canyon and to eat a hot dog in Central Park, amongst others on the list.  I couldn’t do a lot of those things on this trip (some for obvious reasons) but I could definitely achieve the last at the very least.

So I left little ol’ Adelaide on a Sunday and the exciting thing about that is that I arrived in New York on the same day.  Now that to me is travelling at it’s best, you don’t lose any time what so ever, like 6 hours (but in reality it was almost 30 odd hours of travelling).  I arrived in JFK and immediately felt the electricity.  Tired from travelling, I thought the jet lag would kick in, but it didn’t, not yet anyway.  I managed to find an airport transfer bus, suggested to me by a fellow Aussie (now a New Yorker) who sat next me on the plane from LA to New York.  Nice lady, she actually mentioned a few other places for me to visit especially the hidden eating places since she found out I was a chef.

Checked in and ready for the shower my friend arrives at my hotel door, I was so glad to see her and it only made the excitement go to another level, the prospects of seeing NYC with a friend and with some one who knows the place.  After a quick chat and a shower, we were off to Manhattan Island in a yellow taxi, another cliché I so wanted to experience.  Destination unknown, we told the driver to drive down town and we ended up in the Meatpacking District. Amazing! The first thing I noticed was, taxi’s are so bloody cheap.  My hotel was over the Queensboro Bridge in Queens which comes out onto Manhattan on 59th and a taxi ride from there to Meatpacking District would have cost me a cool 25 bucks had it been in Adelaide but it cost nothing more than 15!  The second thing I noticed was pebble stone roads.

I don’t know if the cab was going fast or if I was tired from the travel but I couldn’t get my bearings quick enough and I only started to notice my surroundings after I got out of the cab.  It was cold, damn cold, the kind of chill that was similar to the one I felt in Ireland where the wind was cold enough to cut through all the layers of clothing and it woke me up like a boost of adrenalin.  We walked around a while for a bit of site seeing but we were a little peckish so we hunted down a restaurant.  My friend took us to the Spice Market, a restaurant on the corner of West 13th and 9th in the Meatpacking District. It is a magical looking restaurant. The doors you entered through were made of this beautiful thick wood and you were greeted by  hostesses on the other side of the door, happy people with a welcoming gesture to take our coats. Immediately you are in awe of this restaurant’s décor.  Wood every where with intricate carvings on the edgings of every banister, cornice and furniture.  It instantly reminded me of the those Chinese kung fu movies where the fight scenes are in one of those multi story buildings from old Chinese restaurants like a scene from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

The furniture reminded me of Balinese furniture with an eclectic mix of bench seatings, buckets chairs, and even seats at the bar over looking the chef’s pass.  Sat at a table for two, we had a great view of the kitchen, right in the action.  The food was heavily influenced by my Asian flavours, from Vietnamese cooking, to Malay and of course Indian .  These flavours were something I was totally familiar with in eating and cooking and I assume a lot of Aussies would be too.  Thai beef skewers, Vietnamese spring rolls and Indian curries appeared on the menu, so we were comfortable and confident in making the choices.  With all the dishes served family style, we ordered the usual suspects like tuna with Asian pear and lime, a hot pot, rice and some vegetables.  The food was good but apart from the surroundings, which was absolutely magical, it didn’t really blow my mind, in fact, for Adelaidians, I think Ying Chow or East Taste would have been a better culinary experience.  We left happy with the experience and we continued our walk around the Meatpacking District, which was amazing and started to head up town.  My friend and I had a lot to talk about and catch up on and before we knew it, we found our selves walking past Madison Square Gardens, then into the theatre district in Broadway.  Another reality check.  It was one of those moments that I just found my self smiling.  I was there; I was really there standing on the streets that glowed with neon signs and brightly lit, huge billboards.  I was standing on one of the streets of New York which is a land mark that billions of people know and I even saw the guitar playing cowboy in his white jocks, cliché number two ticked off (Time Square that is not the guitar playing, jock wearing cow boy).  We continued our walk past Rockefeller building then it was time to call it quits for the night.

Time Square at night

Huge neon signs

Outside Rockefeller Building

The next day, the jetlag kicked in so I was in the gym trying to kill it by running on the treadmill at 7 in the morning; didn’t work though, I was wide awake and raring to go so we had an early start that day and I’m glad we did.

The subway is the best way to travel in NYC.  Again, using the movies as my guide, I thought the subway was dangerous, dirty and really dodgy, not to mention how confusing it all seemed but in reality, it was clean, a cheap way of travelling and really, really safe.  My friend was the subway expert.  In my head and I dare say only in my head, I called her the subway “Nazi”.  She had that time table and map to fine art and I did not dare mess with her system, which suited me fine but if she wasn’t there, I would say that my pea brain could have easily worked it out.

We started up town on 5th Avenue , home of the shopping precinct.  Rows and rows of famous retail brands.  The longest road of shopping I have ever seen.  It was cool to walk on this famous strip but I don’t think I was as excited as my friend; none the less it was good to see the fashion of NYC.  I won’t write too much on this subject except for, if you want fashion and fashion accessories at the top end, go here, you’ll find every thing.  I was excited though to see the Apple store on the corner of 5th Avenue and 59th.  On ground level you see a glass cube with the Apple sign in the middle, pretty cool design which was very fitting of Apple really, then you travel underground to one of the biggest and busiest Apple stores in the world.  Being an Apple fan, I was very chuffed to be there.

Trump Tower on 5th Avenue

The entrance o the iconic Apple store on 5th Avenue

That day, we must walked and caught the subway every where.  I was glad to play the tourist, being led around this fine city, I could really switch my head off (which is rare) and it doesn’t happen often but I could really take it all in and enjoy the moment, immerse myself in the sights, smells and culture of the city, I knew I was creating memories that would last until my dying day.

We zig zagged around lower Manhattan  and made our way to Greenwich Village.  We visited the famous Bleecker St, known for all it’s eateries including The Magnolia Bakery, made famous by the TV show, Sex in the City.  The baked goods were good but again nothing compared to some of the top bakeries in Adelaide or Melbourne I thought.  We enjoyed walking around the place, seeing the New York architecture and the terrace apartments with its streets lined with cherry blossom in lower Manhattan, the most picturesque and beautiful part of the city.  I couldn’t help but day dream of what my life would be like living in one of these apartments; day to day living and working in Lower Manhattan, even just saying that name seems cool.

Bleecker St known for all the paces to eat

The Magnolia Bakery made famous by the show “Sex in the City”

I finally found what a pumpkin pie looks like!!

The scenery lived up to my expectations but  I was still waiting to be wowed by the food.  We finally found Zabars, a delicatessen full of Italian cheeses, small goods, salads, whole food, pre-prepared food and the list goes on.  It was a shop with everything you wanted to eat, like a scene out of a small Italian village shop with salamis hanging all over the place and cheeses displayed every where and the smell of fresh bread looming around.  The place was jammed packed full of food and upstairs was jammed packed full of cooking gear, again I was like kid in a lolly shop!  But we didn’t stop there for lunch, instead we caught the subway to Houston St on the Lower East Side and headed for the infamous Katz’s, the Jewish delicatessen that sold the well known “Reuben” sandwich.  Katz’s is home to the Pastrami on rye sandwiches, the matzo ball soup and where the famous orgasm scene from the movie “When Harry Met Sally” was filmed but more importantly, it is the home of the very well known juicy corn beef sandwich called the Reuben!  Upon seeing the Katz’s sign I was heavy with excitement and anticipation.  Entering the restaurant, we walked through a very old turn style, first sign that this place has history and we were then handed what looked like a small bus ticket, which we later found out was our food docket.  The people who worked there must have thought we knew what to do with it but instead we just stood around wondering what the hell to do next, and more importantly how to order.  I asked a dude walking past me with this massive sandwich on his plate how it all worked and he helpfully went through the process with us, so from there,  we were off.  I stood at the counter and ordered the Reuben.  Whilst I waited, the guy behind the counter making my sandwich was very chatty and handed a side plate with small sample of the meat that was in the Reuben for a taster as I waited for my order to be made.  I felt special, I thought I was singled out with a nice a gesture but as I looked around, I realised every one was getting a sample.

When I got my sandwich, served with a huge pickle, I really thought I had a slice of heaven on a plate.  I just had a taste of the juicy grilled corn beef and now I see it absolutely piled high, jammed between two slices fresh rye bread with sauerkraut and thousand island dressing oozing from the sides.  We quickly found a seat close by and attacked this sandwich goodness and I must say, it was better than I expected.  It was the best sandwich I have ever tasted and just when you think you can eat more, you put away the last bite and that feeling quickly subsides.  As I sat there digesting my food, I was also trying to soak in this restaurant land mark.  It was a truly magnificent idea for restaurant that reeked of history.  The floors were made of wood and looked as if it had been there since the birth of this building.  It was covered with wood shavings to collect the dripping juice and grease from the meat and this was swept away regularly and a fresh layer of saw dust replaced it.  The walls were filled with pictures of famous people who dined there in the past  and it seemed to fill the wall.  The buzz and the atmosphere from both the patrons and the servers added to the experience of this place.  It has been there for years and judging from my experience, I am confident to add that it will still be there the next time I have Reuben at Katz’s.

View from Houston St, lower East side

Reuben on rye

We continued around down town then we decided to go to the Chrysler Building and the then onto the Empire State Building.  As we lined up to go up the building, the movie “Sleepless in Seattle” was playing in my head.  I wondered if what saw in the movie was what I will see in a few minutes and as we stepped out of the final elevator, I found out that it did look like the movie.  The first thing that hits you is the cold wind, bloody freezing cold.  I made the error of putting on light jacket, but since I was up here in a once in life time land mark, I had to brave the cold.  From here we could see the all of Manhattan from Harlem right down to the financial district and all the places in between.  Over the East River where we were staying in Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn.  I could see the Statue of Liberty and New Jersey over the Hudson.  From here you can definitely see New York and all it’s Borough’s, it was a perfect end to the first full day of NYC.

That night we went to place called Eataly. It was mind blowing!  One of the largest places dedicated to food I have ever encountered.  These Americans it seemed, really knew how to present food to the punters.

Located on West 23rd and 5th Avenue, you entered into a building that seemed to wrap around the whole block. From the 5th Avenue entrance you walk into a long corridor greeted immediately with café from Lavazza coffee.  Espresso coffee, I was so glad to see that because coffee in America is shit, sorry but it truly is and seeing Lavazza hanging on the walls, I knew there was hope of getting good coffee.  As you walk on down the long corridor, you walk past rows of gelato then onto chocolate heaven.  Rows and rows of chocolates so wonderfully presented in their cabinets like precious little jewels.  They looked so tempting, even for some one like me who doesn’t eat chocolate.  We proceeded to walk around the corner into a large space with stand up tables and surrounding that were tempting small goods stalls a couple of bars you can sit at where chefs cook in front of you.  Cheeses from here to wazoo, it seemed we arrived at food Mecca, enough for us to decide on parking our butts on stool at Eataly’s fish counter called Le Cucine di Eataly – Il Pesce.  We ordered an array of seafood from grilled prawn, squid and lemon skewers called Spiedino Misto $17US, which was so perfectly cooked that we ate everything on that skewer, even the grilled meyer lemon; to fried mix seafood of calamari, fish and prawns called Fritto Misto “alla Ligure” $23US, simply lightly battered, fried and served with fresh lemon, so gorgeous, you can taste the freshness.  Sometimes simplicity is the best! Matched with an absolutely wonderful Italian Rose (Il Rosato, a Sangiovese, Merlot by Costello Di Ama), we were in heaven.  I sound like a hypocrite but I am almost ashamed to say that that wine was one of the best wines I have ever tasted.  I love my wines and boy I fell in love with Italy in New York that night because of the food and wine, I got flashes of when I was in Florence with it’s strong culture that revolved around food.  We were surrounded in food, literally.  When we finished eating, we continued to look around.  I saw people ordering wine and slices of parma ham and eating it standing up at the standing tables, just like they do in Italy.  They ate their small goods served on paper, finished their wines and moved on, possibly to the gelato stand to have their desserts.  We found out there was a fruit and veg stall there, a bakery, and other restaurants.  Like I said, it was that big that you would think you were in Italy.  That place was absolutely fantastic; love, love, love that place and if you are ever in New York, visit this place and experience Italy in New York!

To Be Continued………………………

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