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Thursday, March 08, 2007

My Trip to New York

I’m back from New York. I had an interesting trip. I stayed at the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. The hotel lobby was absolutely grand and very regal looking. By the way, it's the hotel where the movie "Maid in Manhattan was filmed". My only complaint is the rooms are a bit small and the bathrooms seemed old and a little bit shabby. But the little touches like the Bath and Body Works toiletries, the incredibly crisp and yet luxuriously soft sheets, and the beautiful room decor made up for it. The staff was very helpful and made my stay very pleasant.

Although it was a business trip, and most of my time was spent, working, I can sum up the rest of my 5 days into two words: COLD and FOOD. I won’t bore you with the work details but let me elaborate on the “COLD” and “FOOD” part.

The last couple of days were unbelievably cold in New York – it was just my luck that the week I was there, the temperature highs were in the low twenties and the lows were in the “teens”. But added to that, there was the snow and the windchill factor that dropped temps to single digits.

But honestly, inspite of having to wear layers and layers of clothes, I actually liked the cold. It was refreshing and exhilarating. There’s nothing like walking to work, along 45th and Madison, sipping hot coffee and feeling the icy air on your face. And I absolutely loved the feeling of falling snow. I was so excited the first time it snowed while I was there, I had to stand out on the street to touch it for myself, never mind if my coworkers thought I was acting all touristy.

I also loved the look of freshly fallen snow. Yesterday, we visited our offices in Queens, Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan and Elmhurst and I enjoyed the long car rides just looking at everything covered in fine white powder. I know this is probably just because I was just visiting. I am sure if I had to live there and trudge across the slippery ice that turns into sludge or if I had to shovel the snow off the driveway and add chains to my tires every time I left home, I probably wouldn’t describe it as a winter wonderland!

The second thing I loved about my trip was the FOOD. There were so many wonderful places to try just around the hotel. I tried a few of them with co-workers (for lunch) and explored others by myself (for dinner). I wish I took pictures but I was a bit embarrassed to be taking photos of my food with newly met co-workers and even more embarrassed to snap pictures of my meal when I was alone. I’ll try to add links (if there are any) to the places I went to instead. You can click on the links and see the places for yourself.

Here’s a quick rundown of my foodie adventure:

I arrived late Sunday afternoon so my first meal in NY was dinner at a local pizza place. Since I didn’t know where to go and was getting really hungry, I followed the hotel doorman’s suggestion to try Gino’s Pizza. It was a small inconspicuous place a block from the hotel. It was so small there were no places to sit, you got your pizza slices hot from the brick oven and ate it standing around the counters. Two slices of greasy (you needed a napkin to wipe off the grease!), cheesy, authentic new york pizza. YUMMY! Luckily, there was a small family run grocery next door where I stocked up on bottle water for my hotel room.

On Monday, I had coffee and a real New York bagel with cream cheese at Café Metro before heading to work. Lunch was with co-workers at a very posh Turkish restaurant called Pera. We shared a grilled calamari ceviche-type salad and the appetizer seafood platter (raki cured salmon with with fennel raisin, marinated white anchovies with crispy shallots, sea bass with lemon and smoked paprika yoghurt, jumbo lump crabmeat with avocado and tomatoes). It was all quite exotic and very good. My main dish was the pera shish frites (lamb tenderloins cooked perfectly served with a creamy-dill yoghurt dipping sauce and a side of pomme frites - which is just a fancy way to call French fries). We also had a continuous supply of wonderful warm grilled flatbread and a warm hummus. For dessert, we had a traditional dessert that was a mild goat cheese, wrapped in shredded wheat, baked and drizzled with honey and kaymak (a sweet butter). It is probably one of the best desserts I have ever had in my life! Incredible. Crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The slight saltiness of the cheese was a great compliment to the light sweetness of the honey and the melting kaymak. I can still taste it in my mind! For dinner I walked two blocks to the Grand Central Terminal and took the escalator down to the Dining Concourse where there is a food court with several wonderful, exciting places to eat. I chose Cafe Spice, an Indian Food vendor, and treated myself to a spicy chicken vindaloo (yes, it was spicy!), crisp salad and fluffy Basmati rice. Soooo good! I had to burn it off by window shopping along 5th Avenue.

On Tuesday, breakfast was courtesy of a New York hotdog stand. An all-beef hotdog with spicy hot mustard and a carton of orange juice. Lunch was with my co-worker at a trendy Japanese lounge called Haru. It was a very hip and happening place where “yuppies” went to have great food while enjoying the music. The place has long tables and stools and customers sat wherever there was space available. We shared our table with several other people we didn’t know. Between the loud music and the conversations around us, it was hard to have a serious conversation, so we made up for it by enjoying the food. We shared spicy salmon sushi, tuna sashimi, grilled sweetened eel, and bowls of hot miso soup (perfect for warming your hands too!). Dinner was a thick pastrami sandwich from Café Metro. The pastrami was thinly-sliced and piled high between two slices of bread. IT was piled so high it was hard to open my mouth wide enough to bite that sandwich (but it was worth the effort!). I took my sandwich (and dill pickle) along as I walked towards Bryant Park and stopped by a roadside store to buy my hubby an “I Love N.Y.” shirt.

On Wednesday, breakfast was a bowl of mixed fruit from Food World (I was feeling guilty after all the wonderful food I had been eating) and coffee. Since I spent the day visiting our other offices, my co-workers from Flushing treated me to an authentic dimsum lunch at East Lake Restaurant right in downtown Flushing. Many claim Chinese food in Flushing is even more authentic than NY's Chinatown. I don't know about that but I do know the dimsum we had that day was good – we had pork and shrimp dumplings, scallop dumplings, shark fin dumplings, steamed pork buns, taro puffs, and a spicy beef lo mein noodle dish with Chinese broccoli. Dinner was back in Manhattan, I went to Texas Station, a few blocks from my hotel where they claimed they made the “best, authentic Buffalo wings”. I enjoyed that with a chicken Caesar salad. While the salad was so-so, the buffalo wings truly lived up to their claim. They were crispy and spicy and finger-lickin’ good! You could even ask for extra sauce for an extra kick. And yes, with the extra sauce, you needed extra napkins too.

Thursday, for my last meal in NY, I headed to Dunkin Donuts for a quick donut and coffee. It was as good as I remembered. Back home, in Manila, I remember times when my mom would buy us Munchkins, I loved Dunkin Donuts and remember fondly the donut shop by Ortigas Ave next to the place where I got my hair cut. I also took home 2 dozen donuts for my in-laws. We all remember Dunkin Donuts from back home and don’t know why the chain can not be found on the West Coast.

So, that was my stay in NY. Most memorable because of the COLD and the FOOD – and yes, the new friends I’ve made at work as well. But that’s a whole other story.


jml said...

I am so glad that you had a great and safe trip to New York. Fantastic food, exciting weather, and new friends - what more can anyone ask for. Hope the business part of the trip was just as good and productive.

jol said...

Your vivid description of the weather and the food showed how enjoyable was your trip. I can't wait to hear stories of your new found friends in New York. Am happy that you are back, safe and sound after an interesting trip.

leslie Ty said...

ang cool ng links Jo! :) i want to visit New york and try those restaurants.... :) kim (my sister) read this blog and she said na you can be a food critic! :)