In Which There are Visitors

Just when the dust cleared from my last batch of visitors, some Californians trotted into town and hot on their heels, a couple of Canadians. So things have been busy and will likely continue to be for the foreseeable. So what exactly have I been doing to keep so busy? To be honest, mostly food.

On Tuesday we took advantage of the smaller queues on a weekday evening and finally tasted the absurdly popular Tim Ho Wan. It was good but if I’m perfectly honest, it wasn’t all that much better than Jing Fong and since it is possible to get a table in Jing Fong on a weekend around the actual dim sum hour, I might steer my loyalties thusly. I do have to give it to them though, their steamed cake was absolutely stunning and I’ve never had one even half so good anywhere else. So yes to the steamed cake, no to the queueing. Whether or not I shall ever return remains to be decided.

Following food, we wandered down through the East Village towards my neck of the culinary woods. It was a peaceful walk down treelined streets that ended delightfully enough in a Doughnut Plant where we shared two tasty doughnuts before plopping our bottoms down on a bench in Seward Park. It was a bit of a quiet night in the park, peaceful and cool, and very soon accompanied by the inimitable North Dumplings.

Just as it was getting dark, we hopped on the bus that swept us across Chinatown and down to the Staten Island Ferry. We caught it at the perfect moment. Just as we pulled out of the berth, the sky caught flame. It was a brilliant blaze of scarlet and indigo painted across the horizon behind Jersey City. It was, with full awareness of the cliche, just like a movie as we leaned over the rail and gazed at the fleeting trails of the descending sun. It was indescribable.

The following night, I traded food for education and attended a two hour class on Python for data scientists. It was more of a lecture than a class but the material was slid and now I have a whole slide deck of things to pretend that I’m going to learn just as soon as I have a second in which to do so. Afterwards I went to dance.

On Thursday, somewhere between work and pouring rain, my mom arrived in the city for almost two weeks of adventure. We started her New York holiday with spicy delicious Sri Lankan Kottu from Kottu House a mere half block from my apartment. With our mouths on fire, we then wandered over to the Cocoa Bar where we ate ridiculous desserts and drank exotic hot chocolate. I had a cassis and white chocolate mousse cake paired with a matcha white hot chocolate while mom had a cinnamon hot chocolate and a chocolate dipped coconut macaroon.

The next day, having taken the day off work, we started the day with breakfast at Egg Shop where I ate a deliciously bizarre sandwich composed of fried egg, fried chicken, picked carrots and cucumber and some manner of heavenly aioli. It was not the most orthodox breakfast but it was delicious! Once fed we set out for the East River where we walked along the parkway towards the northern edge of the East Village. Truth be told, I don’t know exactly what constitutes the north edge of the East Village but by the time we returned to the streets we were north of 10th and ready to head south again.

As we wandered through Alphabet City and into the Village, we stumbled across my favourite gelateria: Fresco. They have all the most exciting flavours of gelato and sorbet and somehow I never seem to get up there to eat it—my waistline thanks my laziness for keeping me in my existing pair of jeans. Mom tried my personal favourite, lemon and basil, in a waffle cone while I mixed a lemon and poppyseed gelato with a dill and cucumber sorbet. It may seem strange but trust me, it’s delicious. I am currently dreaming of gin and tonic with sorbet instead of cucumbers and tonic. You can call me an alcoholic but you can’t say I’m uncreative!

After the gelato we stopped by Essex market for a quick tour of the local fish and fruit before eventually finding our way down through Chinatown to Columbus Park. If I thought Seward park savoured of Shanghai, Columbus Park makes it pale in comparison. Every available seat was filled with an aging bottom playing cards or mahjongg and chatting away in every imaginable dialect. I was in heaven.

Five minutes later we were checking into mom’s BnB and about five minutes after that we were back out on the sidewalk strolling through Soho. We stopped at a posh little boutique and an adorable tea shop and then somehow ended up back on the Lower East Side eating rugelach and black and white cookies at Russ and Daughters.

Sometime and a few more miles of walking later, Mom’s friend had arrived from JFK and we were seated in Puglia, an Italian restaurant circa 1919. The food was fantastic but the ambiance was rather less so. Round about the arrival of our entrees, the back of the restaurant burst into birthday karaoke while the intervening full of the shrillest of young women gossiped so loudly it seemed a miracle that it remained incomprehensible. To round out the room, in trooped a cluster of young ladies very much “ready for the club”. From the stars and stripes scarf knotted jauntily around one of these charming creatures’ throat, one might assume that they were on the prowl for seamen freshly ashore for fleet week. One wouldn’t want to say for certain though. Perhaps they and their sequins and skirts were only out to mark Memorial Day.

The next morning we headed off to Washington Square Park in search of local colour. It was still fairly early and therefore quite quiet so we wandered through and set off through Greenwich Village to the Hudson River. We moseyed our way down the parkway in a light breeze past Jersey City towards the Statue of Liberty. As we reached Battery Park City, we cut in from the river towards One World Trade where we stopped to contemplate the memorial before wandering off through the great whale’s belly that is the Oculus. Once out the other side we found our way into an adorable little French cafe tucked in a side street between banks and bankers. The quiche was divine!

Filled with salmon and custard, we set out into the Financial District past Trinity Church, down Wall St past the Stock Exchange, and eventually on to the famous Charging Bull. How anyone ever gets a picture of that particular statue may forever be a mystery for when we came upon it it was absolutely mobbed by tourists of every extraction posing and pawing at their leisure. We did not stop long.

Further south we found Battery Park and the strange installation that calls itself the Sea Glass Carousel. It is the most otherworldly and almost eerie assemblage of coloured glass and ethereal music and it’s meant for children. I have no explanation. Beyond Battery, we strolled along South St towards the South Street Seaport where we found a tall ship, a cute little tugboat, and about half a dozen blocks of shops and restaurants all tucked into old store buildings. We stopped into a cafe called Patoro where we took a moment to rest our feet and refuel ourselves.

After the cafe it was on to the municipal buildings and courts where we wandered amongst the curious melange of ornate and brutalist until eventually winding our way down into the new City Hall subway station. There is an old one but it is now no long in use on account of an impractically curved platform leaving far too much of a gap. I had heard that it was possible to view this abandoned station by riding a certain train past the turn around, but I’ve never quite been bold enough to try. I decided that now was as good a time as any so I piled us onto the train just as everyone else was streaming off and we rode, the only passengers on the train, past the end of the track and around the corner into the most beautiful bit of history.

The skylights have been reopened lighting the chandeliers and Gustation tile ceilings with the glow of indirect sunlight. It’s gone almost as quickly as it arrives but, while it lasts, it is beautiful. It also feels tantalizingly secret and forbidden.

After our little adventure, the train swept us back up to Chinatown where we settled into the renowned Xi’an Famous Foods for some spicy noodles of the north western variety. They were spicy and delicious and savoured strongly of my favourite Shaanxi restaurant in Shanghai. So much so, in fact, that I have spent no small bit of time since then fantasizing about spinach noodles soaked in chilli oil and garnished with “flavouring not meat”.

In good Chinese tradition we then observed the 吃饭后/百步走/生命到/九十九 principle and wandered at least a hundred steps back up to Washington Square where we found much more colour than before. The park was filled with people, most notably, a rather nondescript fellow standing on a tarp surrounded by children as he brandished a magnificent bubble wand. It was more net than loop and the result of dipping it into the soap and lifting it to the wind was great clusters of bubbles which spread or clung with little predictability as they floated over the heads of awestruck children and adults alike.

Sunday morning we started our day just south of Union Square at the most dangerous place I know: The Strand. I managed to escape with only four books in my bag and two of the are for other people! Besides which, when they only cost a dollar it’s as good as impossible to resist. We then drifted through the park ogling statues until we found ourselves in the middle of the Taiwan festival. To say that it was bustling would be a dramatic understatement so we slipped through and set off to find lunch at the very highly regarded Union Fare.

I say lunch, but lunch might be a bit of a stretch. We had no thoughts of savoury or nutritious things, no we were there for Union Fare’s famously decadent croissants formed from flavoured pastry, topped with glazes and powdered sugar, and filled with the most decadent flavoured creams. We had a matcha, a red velvet, and a birthday cake and I honestly couldn’t pick a favourite. They were all so darn tasty! As was the blended mint and matcha drink I paired with mine. Fresh mint setting off the herbaceous loveliness of the matcha? Perfection.

Following our snack we set off up 5th Avenue right on up past the Empire State to the Schwarzmann Building and Bryant park. The library was closed, but the park was open so we set down for a while to ponder the skyline in the shady leafiness of the park. On our way back down Broadway, we stopped at Macy’s to ride the escalators all the way up to the top and then back on down. It’s a curious mix of all new escalators, half wooden escalators with modern metal treads, and completely wooden ones that may well have been in place since the dawn of time. It will be a shame if retail continues to tank to the point that Macy’s can justify ten block-sized floors no longer, but perhaps it’s just a sign of the times.

We had intended to stop at Eataly for dinner but when we got there, we found that half of Manhattan had had the same idea. It was a veritable melee of tourists and Manhattanites alike all swarming about buying pasta and cheeses. Someday I’ll eat at the chain that “redefined Italian cuisine even for Italians” but not if I have to queue in a crush for half an hour just to order.

Having failed in the Italian market, we drifted down to one of my favourite ramen joints near NYU, Mewmen. I’m not sure how much better their ramen is than elsewhere but the servers are the sweetest trio of young Japanese guys, the music is great, and their logo is just tops! Really. Look it up, it’s very well composed. With bellies full of ramen, we then wandered around the block towards my favourite macaron shop… only to find it CLOSED! FOREVER! This happens far too frequently here. A charming little restaurant that answers one particular need in my life appears and then winks out just as quickly as it came. I am only a small bit heartbroken.

So, macaron-less, we went back down to the bottom of the island where Mom and Janis returned to their accommodation and I to my apartment. I might need to find another meringue and ganache filled place to haunt.

And then it was today, Memorial Day, a rainy day, and yes, in all of our wisdom we thought it would be clever to go to the Met. You do not need to tell me what a silly idea that was. It was a bloody zoo! But zoo or not, I spent some quality time with Degas before slipping into the Irving Penn exhibit to stare at photography. Curiously enough, my favourite piece was one of the nudes.

Nudes are beautiful but I’m such a lover of fashion and textiles that no bare skin can beat the drapery of a perfectly formed frock, but this was different. The shot captured what can be best described as the elevation of a reclining woman from upper thigh through to her lower ribs. It was so sculptural and abstract that it looked more like a landscape than a body and even the darkness of pubis spoke more of vegetation than hair. It was a strange and illusory and I loved it.

Around mid-afternoon we took a break to eat bagels before I headed back to get a bit of work done before work tomorrow morning and Mom and Janis returned to the Met.

I was meant to attend a dance class tonight but it was cancelled somewhat last minute and so now I am lounging around reading and attempting to write this up for you all. Let’s not speak about how long it’s taken to get this far.

The Salsa Girl


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