From Tarrytown, I'd periodically travel to New York City. Manhattan hasn't changed since my previous trips. Both day and night, I like it and how it looks. The only thing that surprised me: I forgot how many street carts there are. Practically every corner in busy parts of the city has one.
This post describes some of these excursions to the city.
On Wednesday, October 22, 2009, I went to the city for a book talk by the authors of SuperFreakonomics (the sequel to Freakonomics). The discussion was okay. Watching the authors interact was revealing. It's neat to see and hear stories about how their relationship evolved from their initial dislike (Levitt to Dubner) and hands-off / object of study (Dubner to Levitt) to their current level of comfort. Sadly, the questions in the Q&A were remarkably poor in quality and as a whole I felt as if I might as well have skipped the show.
Before the book talk, I grabbed an unusual slice of pizza from Cafe Viva in the upper west side. It had sliced shiitake mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, roasted cloves of garlic, crumbled tofu (supposedly green tea and miso flavored), and pesto sauce on a spelt crust. The crust held up impressively against the weight of the toppings--no bending--, yet it was easy to chew. The slice was definitely good for that brief period when all the ingredients were hot.
My Lawyer Friend
On Friday, October 30, 2009, I attempted and failed and then attempted again and succeeded at meeting a lawyer friend and ex-roommate of mine, D. First, I tried meeting him at his office a bit north of Grand Central for lunch, but he got pulled into a last minute meeting and had to cancel. My journey there, however, was not entirely worthless: I passed an RV dedicated to doing mitzvahs. It was labeled a "mitzvah tank" and the people within asked everyone on the streets, myself included, "are you jewish?" I think central Manhattan, certainly including Midtown East, is probably a good place for this. I imagine they're likely to find a good number of lapsed or non-practicing jews.
In the evening, I met up with D at Astor Place in the East Village. The East Village is cool. D shares my love of unusual food, and he led us to Otafuku for take-out Japanese street food. We got Otafuku's specialties: okonomiyaki (a type of flat Japanese pancake) and takoyaki (octopus-filled pancake balls). We walked to his apartment at Stuyvesant Town (also in the East Village) to eat them. They were good. As for his apartment, it was exactly what I expected my former roommate to have (though with the shocking addition of suits). It's nice to feel like I still understand him.
On Halloween (Saturday, October 31, 2009), Di Yin and I returned to the city to meet up with my friends B and C. Di Yin took pictures on this outing. The link goes to the first picture she took this day. When you see a picture of her and Anwar (picture 94), you're done with the set of Halloween pictures.
We arrived in the city a couple hours before we were to meet them. Soon after leaving the train station we discovered a street fair on Madison Avenue. It was big: it started at 42nd Street and, when we turned around at 49th, looked like it continued for another couple of blocks.
The stands sold the usual street fair stuff. (I won't bother listing them here.) Regarding food, we saw lots of gyros (I guess this is New York's equivalent to the omnipresent meat-on-a-stick one sees at street fairs in California) and roasted corn on the cob, plus some more unusual items. Yona's Gourmet Delights sold borekas (a savory dish of phyllo dough filled with stuff, common in the eastern Mediterranean) and mini quiches. There were more vegetarian stands and smoothie stands than I'm used to seeing at street fairs. Also of note: the stand serving the usual street fair staple of kettle corn had a dozen flavors and offered free samples.
On our walk south from the festival, we saw one of the best Halloween costumes we'd saw see the whole day: four men dressed like ghost busters striding into the central New York Public Library. It looked exactly like the final scene in the movie Ghost Busters when the ghost busters enter the museum for the final showdown. Awesome! (Did the movie actually film the scene at the NYPL?) We followed them into the library so we could look at them more. Later, we got distracted and wandered through the library and looked at a few of its hallway exhibits.
As it got later and we walked to Chelsea, we saw lots of costumed trick-or-treaters, some going from shop to shop. It's good that even in Manhattan kids can go out trick-or-treating. It's also cool that some nice shops participated and gave out candy (though it was a little sad that many mis-planned and had to put up signs saying that they ran out of treats). Highlights included a girl dressed as a slice of watermelon and a whole family dressed as the flintstones.
Lucky for the trick-or-treaters, it only rained later in the evening after they'd all gone home.
Finally, Di Yin and I arrived at the Chelsea Market to meet B and C and explore it with them. The Chelsea Market is a former factory that's now been converted into an indoor shopping street for groceries and other foodstuffs. It's a fun place to wander and sample, with many interesting stores. Of note:
- the dairy, Ronnymilk, that is in effect a "milk bar" and ice cream parlor, with a decor to match.
- the bakery Amy's Breads with attractive breads.
- a cupcake store that has cupcakes with artistic frosting, each cupcake unique. I, however, wouldn't eat any. (They didn't look like they tasted good.)
- an amazingly huge fishmonger, misnamed The Lobster Place that, besides having a large selection of fish, has recipe tips for every fish. In addition, it also has an astonishing selection of smoked fish.
- a large Italian market (perhaps Buon Italia) with its olives, oils, antipastos, and cheeses galore, and more.
- another gourmet market that has James White drinks, which Di Yin and I had in London.
It was an awkward evening (I'm not sure why), though I appreciated seeing my friends before heading to China.
Other times I'd occasionally have dinner in the city after work. One day we met a friend of Di Yin's in Flushing, Queens, for Korean food. We had a dumpling soup (the dumplings were good; the rest of the soup was not) and bulgogi (good) and some generally poor panchan / kimchi. Another day we met a friend of mine, B, for, oddly enough, Korean again, this time at Gahm Mi Oak in Manhattan's Koreatown. From its atypical menu, we ordered a meat soup (sul lang tang, which was remarkably boring), a ssam (a platter of ingredients to use to make pork-filled cabbage rolls), and Korean-style pancakes (good with the seafood sauce dip).
On Friday, October 24, 2009, I again ate in the city. I selected Cafe Asean because it has an intriging menu with many dishes similar to or clearly inspired by Singaporean hawker fare. It's a cute, lively place. My good duck roll was Chinese-style bbq duck wrapped (with other stuff) in rice paper to resemble a Vietnamese spring roll. The steamed mushroom dumplings, in contrast, were meh: the mushroom flavor was too assertive.
I took only three pictures over the course of my visits to New York. Only one bears a connection to any of the above stories.