Fall in Central Park and things I ate while away

Hello again! I feel like a bear that’s just emerged out of the winter hibernation, or in my case, fall hibernation.
Unhappy face because my castle is taking too long to build.

What have I been up to? TBQH, not much. The last couple of months, I’ve been in a bit of a rut. Summer was this wonderful prolonged daydream with its nice weather and days spent strolling the outdoors. When fall came around, I suddenly felt this dread that another year was about to pass me by and that same fear that I had some how squandered my time. I was quite frustrated. October was a busy month in terms of my day job, and I didn’t have a lot of time for creative things. In addition, the past 6 months of eating out because I had no gas was finally starting to catch up to me. You know those terrible days when you wake up and suddenly all your clothes are a bit too tight? Yup, I was going through that all October and the beginning of November. Those feelings of being ugly compounded with frustrations of not having done enough left me feeling overwhelmed and uninspired.

Things I ate, which is probably why I got fatter included:
Red bean matcha toast at Cha An

The works at Xi’an Famous Foods, or rather beef noodle soup and vegetable dumplings. The vegetable dumplings are so good that they’ve converted Ray, who never eats his vegetables.

Grilled cheese at Dominique Ansel. (Not pictured is the plate of pastries on the side, which included a DKA and lots of brioche.)

Fortunately, things started to change a bit, or else I wouldn’t be writing this. Work got slightly less busy; I got my gas back and I started working out more. (I am determined to fit back into my jeans without having to jump around to put them on.)

The first thing I made once I got my gas back was a complete meal of green tea soba with soft boiled egg.
Yes, egg porn.

I guess what changed the most was that I started to think more about what my longer term priorities were and focusing on those. And the things that bothered me in the interim dissolved in my mind when I realized that in a year or two they probably wouldn’t be an issue. For all my cynicism and pessimism, I tried to think a bit more positively and change the things I had control over. I started to feel better.

And so the product of all those internal dialogues and quiet reflections is this post.
When I think back to all those long strolls in Central Park this fall, there is some part of me that quivers at how gorgeous and in-the-present New York is.

Fall in New York is a lovely time.
Sometimes I still feel a bit overwhelmed by the New York, but there’s something about this place that has slowly crept inside me and given me a bit of satisfaction at being here in the center of it all.


A lovely wedding and other musings

Already a week since my last post!

If you recall, previously this year I said one of my friends/old roommates was getting married. Well, the wedding has gone and past now.

Both Ray and I somehow ended up in the wedding party, but it turned out absolutely lovely. I managed to get some photos during the wedding when I wasn’t running around too frantically and they turned out rather well.
This is only the 3rd wedding I’ve ever been to (I’m just now approaching that age where weddings are starting to be more frequent). This was also the first wedding that I’ve been intimately involved with and I thought it was absolutely lovely. The wedding went on without much of a hitch, and the bride and groom were married in a nice little ceremony that I started tearing up during.

The bride of course was quite lovely and her dress was simple, sleek and sweet.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a shot of her standing in its full glory, but it was sweepingly sweet down to the train of the dress.

And her reception was equally as sweet, from the homemade topper on her wedding cake, to the props for her polaroid photo booth.

See how cute the wedding cake topper was?
It’ll also make a sentimental reminder of the day.

I thought this was a cute idea: handmade props for polaroid photo booth where the guests can use the photos taken to fill the guestbook.
Congrats again Weiling & Jason!

A few other things, I was reading this article from the Atlantic on creativity the other day, and it really got me thinking about how in recent years, I’ve just felt that certain faucets of my interests have all but dried up due to work, stress, anxiety, depression, etc. And this blog, having been an expressive outlet, kind of died with my other hobbies like art. So the article made me think about practicing my “art” more, and to do so, I’m going to try keep posting more consistently, even smaller posts that don’t have as many photos, and also present things of other mediums, like sketches and comics.

Also, if you’ve noticed the new layout, be prepared to see it change a few more times. I’m currently experimenting with the look and feel of this blog again.

Until next time!

Cronuts round 3: the real McCoy

Last year, I attempted making Cronuts 2 different times because getting the real thing was too difficult. When I moved to New York, the possibility of a real Cronut was finally available to me. (Not that it wasn’t before, it was just that I was way too lazy to wake up early enough to go get a Cronut on my weekend visits to New York.)

Anyhow, on a Sunday last December, Ray and I finally dragged our sleepy butts out of bed to go stand in line in freezing temperatures for the Cronut.

Honestly, it was a terrible terrible idea, and I would not recommend anyone wait in line outside for this thing in single digits weather. Terrible terrible idea.
But as the sign above states, you gotta keep your eyes on the Cronut and not the hole (even if you can’t feel your toes and you’ve never been so happy as when the Dominique Ansel employees come out to serve hot chocolate and coffee to their freezing Cronut patrons).

Fortunately, lines in freezing weather on a Sunday in December don’t get too long. We only waited 1.5 hours for it as opposed to the normal 2-3 hours wait. So, if you’re looking to reduce your wait and are willing to brave frostbite for your favorite pastry, then go for it.

When 8:00AM finally hit and the doors to Dominque Ansel were flung open, the Cronut seemed within reach and there should have been an end to all that hunger and pain.
So close, yet so far…

And finally, I got my hands on the Cronut, plus DKA and Magic Souffle.
When I got my cronut, I wanted to wait until I could feel all my limbs before eating it. At this point, I had been inside Dominique Ansel for about 7-10 minutes, but the feeling in my feet hadn’t quite returned yet.

Alas, warm cronuts wait for no one.
So Ray and I hunkered down at the nearest open counter space we could find and proceeded to split a cronut. Biting into it, I want to say that it was a wonderful mesh of delightful flavors of chocolate, champange, and orange. But, after all that wait, the frozen toes and cold dances outside, I couldn’t quite taste everything too well. The flavors just kind of took a second seat to the feeling returning to my toes. To say the least, the Cronut was underwhelming.

However, I will say that later when I was home in my nice and cozy bed with a hot cup of tea, the Cronuts that we had saved for later were delicious. Basically, I learned from this experience that Cronuts are delicious if and only if you have feeling in your lower extremities.

Reminiscing Italian at Eataly

And the second post of 2014 is a long time coming. ^^;; Sorry about that. It’s been busy here.

But, I’ve been wanting to share a few good meals I’ve had and that includes this really old one at Eataly.

I’ve been to Eataly a couple times now for meals and it’s surprisingly been excellent every single time I’ve gone. And it’s been good regardless what I order.

My most recent visit was back in December. When I went then, it was a weekday night and a spontaneous date dinner with Ray. This meant we couldn’t get a table at Manzo, Il Pesce, or any of the places with protein, leaving only Le Verdure.

Which wasn’t at all bad if you ordered the Uova al Purgatorio, which was a baked egg with parmigiano
And very delicious. Although, it was piping hot when it came out and I think I burned my tongue from trying to eat it too soon.

Then there was the Zucca al Forno, which were kind of like butternut squash latkes with toasted pine nuts on the side.
No tongue burning for these, just delicious-ness.

And of course, don’t forget to get a main course. Your full stomach will thank you later for it.
Meet Gnocchi alla Romana. These pillowy medallions of cheese and dough were so delicious that my mouth still dreams of them. The gnocchi was perfect. It had this pleasant potato/dough-y taste to it that left this light potato chip aftertaste in your mouth. It was pretty much perfect. The only thing I wasn’t a huge fan of was the broccoli rabeon the top. It was just a tad too bitter.

There was also the polenta with parsnips, garlic, parmigiano, and butter
If I had to learn how to make polenta, I would make this one. It was not that in-your-face-umami; Rather, the flavor was more subtle, but just as good as the gnocchi.

In other news, I’ve been trying to decorate my apartment
Decorating ideas/beautiful drawings are stolen from my friend Weiling, who is also getting married this year. (And I’m having a ton of fun *ahem*helping*ahem* her with her wedding planning. (More like indulging in wedding porn.)

More soon!

The magic of the Holiday Train Show and 2013 in review

Wow, Christmas and the New Year’s came by fast!

I’m currently still in Chicago just chilling and relaxing with some of my favorite people. Being back in my old home city has made me realize how much I miss having that broader support network so close to home.

For some reason this year didn’t feel as festive as previous years. It might have to do with the fact that there was no mulled apple cider or wine this year. (Back in my Chicago apartment Miranda and I did really festive baking things that helped with the Holiday spirit.)

But, this year I got to go see the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Gardens.

This post just includes a few of my favorites, but you can see more here

Since it was a train show, it had a bunch of miniature trains.

And some famous buildings.

It’s a real eye pleasure if you’re into miniatures, trains, or Alice-in-Wonderland-esque vibes.

One of my favorite places in  Manhattan.

The Guggenheim museum

Old Penn Station

It still looks quite majestic even as a miniature.

The attention to detail in these miniatures was delightful.

I just loved how every thing about these miniatures was done so purposefully.

They even had bridge replicas

I’m so glad 2014 is finally here. Out with the old 2013 and in with the new 2014. Like I said in my last post, 2013 was an amazing and weird year. When I look back on it I feel very ambivalent. I wouldn’t call it my worst year, but if I were to measure it by length of time of different events that happened, it was pretty terrible and difficult year interspersed by a few high points, which were more or less my travels to Europe, my new job, and my move to NYC. At the same time, I recognized that I grew a lot this year and I hope 2014 brings new and exciting things for me.

Hello again weekend brunches, I missed you

Manhattan is an expensive city to live in. Of course there are plenty of ways you can save money, (via living like an extreme cheapskate) but why would you want to do that when there are so many delicious and fine eats in the city?

While the past 2 1/2 months have mostly been me settling in, I have had some very delicious eats, especially for brunch.

A couple of my favorite brunches have been 1. Maison Kayser and 2. Chicken and Waffles at Maharlika.

The last time I went to Maison Kayser was about a year ago on the UES. UES is a bit of a hassle to get to from Columbia, but fortunately there is a now a Maison Kayer in Columbus Circle serving delicious things, like this iced mocha latte

And some baked goods.
You can’t go to these types of places without sampling some of their viennoiserie. Personally, I liked the chocolate croissant (top) more than the chocolate brioche (bottom). The chocolate brioche was more like a chocolate brownie, so will probably skip next time (unless I’m craving a brownie).

And we can’t forget to eat our savory things.
The smoked salmon and asparagus cocottes are excellent.

Maharlika was a new place for me. It’s Filipino food with an American spin. I ordered the chicken and waffles.

Batter-less chicken with taro waffle. I liked the fact that the chicken is crispy but not to the point that crumbs are getting everywhere. (Being batter-less helps, I suppose.) I also thought the taro waffle had just the right amount of fluffiness and sweetness.

Trying to update more regularly again, so hope to post again soon.

Not quite a New Yorker and the holidays

Its hard to say what it is about New York that makes you both love it, and want to GTFO of it ASAP. Since moving to New York, I’ve definitely lost a lot of motivation to do a bunch of things, like study for my GRE retake, blogging, working out, etc. I can’t quite put my finger one what it is. It might be my new commute, which is 20 minutes longer than my old commute makes me feel like doing anything after the work day is too-much-effort, or it might be the fact that New York is so fast, I constantly feel like I’m running to-and-fro all over the place. Whatever the reason, I suppose it doesn’t excuse me of the lack of posts. I’m sorry!

I do have a few things to share, like the lights.
In New York, they’re gorgeous. (Yes, I’ve become a regular at Shake Shack now.)

They make it feel like the holidays.
Especially right when it gets dark around 4:30 now, the lights at least warm up your heart a bit.

In terms of food news, I haven’t gone out too much. Just haven’t had the time/motivation to go anywhere fancy, but I have managed to sample some local things.

There’s Jin Ramen up around 125th
The ramen definitely ties with Toto for best ramen I’ve eaten (which isn’t too many, but I imagine it’ll change now that I’m in NYC). The pork cha siu wasn’t as fatty or thick as the ones at Toto, but dare I say the broth was better?

And there’s also Il Solare, this little Italian place next to a neighborhood favorite, Crepes on Columbus.
The pizza’s pretty good. Can’t quite say the same about the about the pasta we had there. It was just kind of bland.

In other old news, I also made a turkey this past Thanksgiving this year. The key, it turns out, is all in the brine.
Obligatory turkey up-skirt shot.

Morning after brunches at Empellon Cocina

So after consecutive posts about my travels, I’ve more or less returned to my regular schedule of food related posts, for now. This is a pretty short post about one of my favorite places to eat in NYC, Empellon Cocina!
When I was in New York in August, I went back to one of my favorite casual dining spots, Empellon. I’ve only been to Cocina for lunch/brunch, but it really doesn’t disappoint. In addition, they keep a pretty cool blog on tumblr

If you go, start with some guac. There’s relish added to give it more pucker.
It goes pretty well with the Masa chips (not pictured).

Cochinita Pibil Hash was also pretty good.
The pickled red onions are quite good. They’ve got this nice sweet and sour to them that cuts through the heaviness of the hash.

We also got the Sweetbread Milanese.
For whatever reason, this reminded me of a filet O fish, without the fish. Maybe it was just the deep-fried crust? The sweetbreads felt a little bit overcooked as the texture ended up being a bit grainy. It was interesting to try, but not sure I liked it enough to order again.

Birthday celebration at Mihoko’s 21 Grams

It was Ray’s birthday last month, so to celebrate we went out to eat.

I guess it has been a while since we’ve gone somewhere nice, but Mihoko’s 21 Grams ended up being the place.
We even got dressed up for it. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been to a fancy place in a little while and committed a few faux pas here and there. Dressing up also didn’t preclude me from being a complete klutz (or sitting in the wrong chair, ~oh well).

We got the four course, but it came with some nice amuse bouches, like this lovely chicken veloute.
It was absolutely delicious, rich and creamy. During the excitement of drinking my chicken veloute out of the egg, I managed to fumble the egg all over my side of the table and spill veloute down the table cloth and onto my dress. It was kind of a sad way to start off the meal. Fortunately, the rest of the meal went okay.

I didn’t spill any more amuse bouches…
I can’t remember what the first one on the left was called. The second was a cheese ball which was kind of like an arancini, which could be dipped in the cucumber yogurt mix on the right.

and a side of baguette and brown butter…
I didn’t know what brown butter was until this meal. It has this nice nutty flavor, but does taste less rich than normal butter.

I had the sashimi to start…
I thought the plating was lovely.

Ray got the Alaskan King Crab Millefeuille. There was some sort of sweet paste layered in that I thought was a nice addition. It kind of tasted and looked like red bean paste to me.
It came with a baby crab too!

Shrimp Uni Avocado.. It was surprisingly good!
I’m not sure why, but when i ordered it I really wasn’t expecting much. I just wanted to try their uni. Instead, I found myself savoring every bite. (You can see on the table cloth where I spilled veloute.)

The Wagyu Tartare was decent.
However, it kind of felt lacking in some aspect.

I got the lobster pearl
It was only okay. I think I would have preferred Ray’s rack of lamb.

I personally really enjoyed the lamb. The candied walnuts and the cherry tomatoes were a nice touch.
I think Ray said it was too overwhelming to eat the entire thing, but this is after 2 other reasonably sized courses and some amuse bouches. I guess i was wasn’t hungry by the time the main course came.

But of course, there is always room for dessert. (The plating for these were gorgeous.)

A Flower of May and the secret messages of the city

A lot of times when I’m in New York, I don’t end up eating Chinese food. Maybe it’s because it’s so near and dear to my heart that eating mediocre Chinese food is just not worth my time. (Why pay for it when I can just make it myself?) However, there are a few places on the UWS that I would go to when I’m craving something close to Chinese food. This would be Malaysian grill and Flor de Mayo (the one on 101st street).

Before I went to Flor de Mayo, I had never known Peruvian-Chinese food was a thing. For the most part, it tastes like Chinese food. Flor de Mayo is  good in the sense that if you want no nonsense Chinese-Peruvian food, this is the place for you.

If you go, you should order the combo of fried rice and half a chicken. There’s something wonderfully home-y about the chicken. The fried rice is also pretty simple, not too salty like some places.

The fried plantains are also another decent pick.
I had also ordered the jumbo shrimp when I went, but wasn’t too impressed with them. Probably would not order again.

The nice weather in Manhattan also meant nice weather for walks (which we usually need after our meals). This also means, nice weather to go out and enjoy the urban art (graffiti) around the city.

Most of it seems random

But, sometimes you come across love love love in the city.
Or, sometimes you meet a few celebrities…

like Iron Man and Lauryn Hill
(Actually, I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be Lauryn Hill. It just reminded me of her.) And of course, the iron man is by Hanksy.