New York City - December 2011
05.12.2011 - 21.12.2011 -5 °C
Food of course was a huge part of my visit here...MmmmmMmmm...and New York City has some fantastic offerings.
I was treated to a couple of lovely meals at Wallse. This is the main restaurant where my friend, Daniel, is head Chef and it is owned by Chef Kurt Guttenbrunner.
Introducing Kurt with some of his team!
Kurt is Austrian as is the food at all of his restaurants, even most of the wines that you can pair to the meals are.
I've enjoyed German and Austrian food for years, and what really impressed me here, is that the delicious simple food has been redesigned for a more contemporary and international crowd without losing it's roots...each dish had such a lightness and flavour about it...simply delicious.
Here's a taste!
A welcome from the kitchen
Examples from a tasting menu, although given that this was personalised for me.
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Treats from the kitchen
I was truly in my element and surrounded by great staff in a lovely setting.
Art adorns the walls at Wallse...including of the man himself!
Although I'm sure the meaning of some of it alludes many patrons!
I couldn't help but have a chuckle over this one!
The place was filled to the brim each time I came by and if anybody needed to wait, they could here or at the wine bar next door.
And this wine bar makes wine cocktails...incredible. You really have to go to try them out.
I've never experienced wine cocktails.
Gluehwein, which is commonly drunk at Christmas markets, has spices, orange juice and sugar added whilst being heated and is perhaps the closest thing I've ever drunk that might be considered a wine specialty.
But here, whites and reds are blended with all sorts of goodies. It certainly a different concept.
Kurt's other restaurant is the Blaue Gans, which has a more relaxed yet contemporary pub feel about it.
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And then there are the Cafe's
Cafes Kristall and Sarbasky that offer a range of cakes and coffee and more.
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Of course, I went to many other NYC restaurants.
Cafe 89 is good fun!
In the restaurant angel wings fan the air.
And you MUST go up to the toilets and have a look...or play, like we did! All funny but a bit scary too!
The toilets are mixed and the toilet doors are interlocked with system that makes the glass go milky when locked...so that no one can see inside...ahuh!
Well, that's the principle and of course I had to give it a go!
Now you see me!
Now you don't!
But I can see you!
All I could think of was that I'd get stage fright, if I needed to go...it's all just a bit disconcerting and maybe being an Engineer and all, I'm just not trusting that technology...so I used one at the far end where no traffic would be passing through and I had to try the lock a couple of times for it to milk over...so beware!
I'm guessing the owners are used to patrons disappearing for a play in the bathroom.
One day I walked from the Financial district all the way up through Little Italy and China Town to Nolita.
Here's a did you know...all these NYC names have a reason...like;
Nolita - North of Little Italy.
Soho - South of Houston (it's a street and not pronounced like the city but like..how now brown cow...
Noho - take a guess..come on!
TriBeCa - Triangle below Canal Street
East Village, West Village - well the names say it all.
So there you go!
Anyway, whilst I wandered about the place, I was also looking for a tiny cafe/restaurant I went to last visit time I was here...back when I crashed my Aunt, Victoria Buckley's (of jewellery design fame!) honey moon for a couple of days! Back then I was way too overwhelmed by the city, especially after arriving at my dodgy, cockroach infested hotel in Chinatown...one that had some tough, gold chained receptionist behind bullet proof glass greet me at 1am in the morning and I had to pass a pimp on the way up the stairs...the flood of tears when I saw Victoria and Ross first thing that morning. This time around, things were very different...I was safely in the hands of Daniel in Wall Street and that hotel appears to have been closed...thank goodness!
I finally managed to stumble across this old favourite and institution of Nolita...and she might even recognise the building...
Cafe Habana, a Mexican Cuban restaurant. Full of locals and great basic food. My profile photo shows one of there sandwiches...Mmmm...but this time I went for the good old burger! I was even treated to a mango margarita, due to my excitement about finding the place again!
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This is the kind of place where you want to sit at the bar and I ended up chatting to a nice but trend conscious man next to me. Very New York.
After ordering my meal, the waiter asked him for his...and was subject to a "one of these, with this and this and this, without that an that and that..oh and did I say without that and that and that!"...whoa now...you should have seen the look on the poor waiters eyes as they twisted in confusion...And he was so good about it after all this is NYC and this is stock, standard, normal behaviour!
I'd been listening, typically, to women carrying on about their food here since I'd arrived and watched them only eat half of some pigeon meal they ordered "cause it might be fattening" but this was crazy...
So I did what any true Aussie would, laughed and said something along the lines of, "you wouldn't want to be difficult would you!"
The waiter stifled a panicked laugh and the guy looked a bit perplexed...with a wavering of uncertainty as to whether or not he should be offended. I couldn't help but giggle further and chat about the cultural experience I was having watching all this again and again in town...Australian's would just ask them to bite it! The guy didn't take it to heart too badly though and tried to cover he's tracks saying he wasn't usually that picky...yeah right! The waiter humbly admitted he broke out in a sweat each time this guy came in, since the last 10 years or so! Too funny. My bluntness was accepted though and we all had a laugh.
Isn't it nice helping them communicate...besides..what were they going to do..Bow me!
A couple of nights, Daniel and I, hit a great Seafood bar and restaurant, enjoying oysters and Champagne for dinner!...Flashpacker remember!
Another night we hit a good Steak and Ribs restaurant in Harlem...Fantastic. The place was pumping and ever so popular.
My eyes were bigger than my stomach and I order a complete rack that was bigger than me...but I did ok considering.
From here we raced back to Columbus circle though because we had a jazz concert to get to.
Good fun...I'd been keen on a broadway show despite, not being a great musical fan...in fact I loathe musicals but it's broadway after all...the performances playing didn't really appeal to me even then though, which likely had to do with my personal disinterest and it was clear I really can't and shouldn't force myself to do what I know I really don't like....and the jazz night was such an easy decision.
Naturally, having a kitchen back at my disposal, I couldn't wait to cook up a storm myself.
So we headed to Chelsea Market in the Meat Packing district.
Big Love for the Chelsea Market!
It turned out to be one of my favourite haunts!
The Market itself is full of a selection of boutique shops, with pretty much anything you need to make up a nice meal.
And there is some great young designer fashion to be found there too.
Eleni's makes gorgeous cup cakes and biscuits. Fantastic box sets representing NYC too..great present idea!
They ended up inverting the Christmas tree though, due to people hitting the decorations when it was the right way up!
Amy's makes great bread.
So we hit the Seafood and Grocery stores, having already purchased a big leg of lamb elsewhere...headed home where Daniel deboned the leg...(isn't that the great thing about having a professional chef in the house!)
Now I guess you're all wondering what a Hoodrat is...and others a Bogan. Well, amidst all the feeding frenzy, one amusing young lady used the term in jest towards my friend and of course when I asked what it meant, she was highly embarrassed and said, "oh it's really rude!" I was getting more intrigued by the second. I learned it had to do with people that might have a limited education, speech, and clothing, and a rough attitude...So not true about my friend, and cheeky as can be to use! So I immediately said, "oh you mean a Bogan!"..although Bogans are likely considered less rough...and it seems a Hoodrats goal is a bad reputation!...we had to chuckle, and now my mate had a bit of ammunition to throw back at her!
So I kept on my food adventure, getting to various places around town...constantly on the look out for Hoodrats...
But NYC is simply to contemporary these days. And even those people are cooler than cool these days.
So my trek took me through the upmarket areas,like Greenvillage and the West Village, where trees line the streets and boutiques can be found spotted throughout. Simply getting lost whilst walking around the streets takes you down some of the prettiest sections.
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I was fascinated ot see that Marcs of clothing design fame has a bookshop there...all about design...I didn't know that company had branched out, although what a clever idea...and well placed.
In this part of town you can also go to the famous Christopher Street. I'd heard of the Christopher Street Parade for years, however, the one in Cologne, Germany. It's a famous gay and lesbian parade, like our mardi gras. This is where I learned, that that parade is named after this street, because of the riots that started at the Stonewall Inn and was the turning point and beginning of the gay rights movement. The small Christopher Park is here and just across from the Inn and now has commemorative statues of gay and lesbian companions in it.
Of course something that remotely intrigued me in the Financial District was the whole Occupy Wall Street movement. After all...in San Francisco and other cities on the West Coast people were still camped out making a stand and holding the fort.
Further the Slogan is catchy and nations around the world embraced the issue...I can't help but wonder how much was understood about what the actual issues raised were though...and who actually had the time to camp out.
So surely here, the place where it all started would be huge!....Nope..not one protestor in sight...
In fact, I learned that Wall Street never really was occupied, so to say. It was a little Square around the corner...Zuccotti Park.
Occupy Zuccotti Park doesn't quite have the same catchy name eh...I wonder how many people would have jumped on the band wagon under this name.
There were a couple of sites I was really keen to visit though. The main one being Ellis Island and this is something you can do in conjunction with the Statue of Liberty. So one icy cold morning I set off to Battery Park to get the Ferry.
You have to pass through airport like security to get on the ferry...it was even worse than the observation decks I'd been too....I'm thinking the paranoia in this country is over the top...but you reap what you sew I guess, so maybe this caution is necessary. I'm betting I would have been imprisoned if I had taken a photo of this rigmarole...and probably sent to Guantanamo Bay...or left on Ellis Island...so I didn't. Once you're passed all of this, it's just a normal day out.
The grand lady herself is made after the likeness of the sculpturer's, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, Mother. No chance to climb her, due to renovations, although it also wasn't really necessary. She is magnificent.
Apparently she was stood above a rooftop in Paris. Wouldn't that have been a sight?!
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At the Grand opening in New York, women were forbidden to attend, as it was considered it would be too dangerous for them in the crowd. Interestingly, my management at one of the companies I worked for used that excuse to stop me going on a crucial business trip...but my situation was in the late 90's!
In this case, the opening was a good hundred years earlier, in 1886 and in response the ladies of the city hired a boat and ferried around the island protesting the decision! After all they were Suffragettes! Good on them!
Merchandice of all sorts was available and even Barbie made an appearance!
From here it is possible to get a ferry right on over to Ellis Island. This island is fabulous and a real highlight for me.
The Statue of Liberty was one of the first symbols of America that new immigrants saw as they sailed into the country. At the base of it is a plaque holding a sonnet, "The New Colossus", written by Emma Lazurus. The sonnet sums up beautifully the significance of the statue and its meaning to all those people who crossed the oceans to get here.
So many questions and answers about identity are raised here, and although it is based around immigration to America, I found it quite touching being an Australian, knowing the same issues and adventures were faced by many of our forefathers...even still today.
A library exists where you can look for your own family heritage and it's estimated that 100 Million Americans had forefathers that passed through this Island. I'm very keen to take a look at my records when I return home, it'll no doubt be interesting what I find.
It was a tough time for many. They'd scratched the last of their belongings together and gathered up only what they could carry, guarding it all the way to America. It was in the entrance hall that they were supposed to hand the bags over for cleaning and disinfecting, but many refused to part with their luggage, after all if anything was lost or stollen at that point it would have simply been disastrous...these things represented the only parts of their prior life that still existed.
If a child or anyone for that matter fell ill, they were quarantined and the whole family had to wait, and sadly young children often passed away. Or if possible the child would be sent back to where they came from typically with the mother, and the family would be split. A really tragic start to a new life in a new country.
Young women were not allowed to come across alone unless they could prove they had a sponsor. Groups of women came in flocks at certain points, as they were postal brides..and it was on arrival they met their future husbands for the first time...this sort of thing still exists today.
Some people, who had a longer wait here, took the time to inscribe a note in the walls.
Outside, you get great views of the Manhattan.
It's a fantastic day outing, but go early as it is crowded and there is so much to see, read, and do.
I'd been contemplating what else I wanted to see and do in town, when I realised that no trip to NYC should be made these days without hitting Harlem!
I was so keen to have a look and already chatted with a couple of people that lived there and increasingly I was learning about how it isn't nearly as dangerous as the reputation it once had.
So one Sunday Daniel and I headed up there. I was so keen to get to a church service...admittedly it's only taken me about a month to stop calling it a concert! It was great too. Two services were advertised for that day at the Canaan Baptist Church. But we were far to late, so we asked anyway...afterall, it was Sunday and maybe there would be another one that evening. It turned out that the Christmas Cantanta was planned for 3pm.
This gave us time to have a look around but I could easily have spent another day here.
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We still had time to head into one of the restaurants that had been recommended to us.
Red Rooster was full but the atmosphere seemed to be fantastic.
And we ended up at Sylvia's where it was pumping along too.
The hostess was really accomodating, realising we had to rush and get back to the service, so she snuck us in ahead of a few groups and we enjoyed a typical Harlem fry up. yummo!
And great singing to boot!
How's this for getting in the mood!
We raced on down to the Church...me snap happy all the way.
Doesn't this look like Sesame street?
And we were guided to our place the service ready for the show...ah...service.
The singing was amazing.
The Canaan Music Retreat Choir were placed through out the Church, wandering down the isles and onto the stage towards the end.
The Dance the World dancers expressed themselves on and off through out the service...it was a white face painted miming kind of thing, which was a bit to new age for me. Then the children's Youth Music Ministries performance ran for a good hour.
At one point, and little angle was supposed to sing, Silent Night, but all we heard in the silent church was, "I'm scared"...everyone chuckled and her Mum led her out, giving another Angel a chance to shine!
Two things made me do a double take though...
Throughout the service the birth of Jesus and the history around this was talked about sung, and performed.
You have to imagine that passionate and powerful, Martin Luther King talk...
l choked as I heard, "and Jesus...well..he was go'n to divorce Mary! Divorce her! etc etc" ..turns out he thought she was a bit of floosy getting pregnant and all....but I kept thinking..divorce, I never heard that before...not that I'm much of a church goer, but surely I didn't miss that bit...later that night I was reminded by a girlfriend that divorce didn't exist back then...ahhh.yeah..that's right..so it was "creative talk".
Then, as the story proceeded I choked on, "and the 3 kings showed up...some say there were 7 but let's just agree there were 3 presents"...what the?!?! you ever heard that before? Now I'm really thinking I missed something here. But what the hell, it was fun! So I clapped and sang along.
Also each time the name Jesus was mentioned, there were cries from the crowd! "yeah Jesus!"...such spirit. And even the sign readers would let it be known, two which a lovely old deaf woman in front of me, I realised after a while was even signing, "Yeah Jesus" back out to the congregation! Fabulous.
Probably the best thing about going at this time is that we were the only tourists there. Everyone was so accommodating and nice...and genuinly thrilled we were there. They were especially pleased we took no photos were made throughout the service and have even promised to send me a copy of it, because they filmed everything. Good fun!
From here, we bid our farewells and headed off to a nice restaurant and pub around the corner to meet up with Daniel's friend and colleague. The place is called Bier International and although smaller, had a bit of a Little Creatures feel about it.
The chips were tossed with truffles...interesting.
And the muscles were fabulous...MmmmmMmmm...
A really nice and relaxing place.
Clearly Harlem is a great place to visit and going through a lot of change at the moment. I imagine this might not be welcomed by some, but now is the time to see it before too much change happens.
Pretty much the whole time I was in town, I used the Subway.
Like with much if the city, it felt really safe. I caught the train at all hours of the night, often on my own.
Sometimes, I was greeted by musicians...very much in Christmas Spirit at this time of year!
Aah..and the Spanish..so nice...I could feel the Christmas exciting building each day.
The station names are made up of little tiles and look so pretty.
Columbus Circle Station
Times Square Station
But it was the art work that has been placed at various stations around the city that absolutely enthralled me...just fabulous.
My favouriates though were at 81st Street and 14th Street Stations.
At 81st Street where the Museum of Anthropology is, you get mosaics of animals all over the place...old and new!
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The seagull was amusingly placed next to a bin!
At 14th Street I really loved the minute figures that you could find in any nook and cranny about the place...such fun!
Hello hello hello!
Even an old railway line has been turned into an aerial park. Although winter, people were still enjoying a stroll along it and I imagine, it is a great spot to enjoy a break in summer. Nice use of urban space too. It's called, The Highline, and runs between The West Village and the meatpacking district. It was on my final day that Daniel and I strolled along this on our way to lunch.
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What better way to finish my stay in the city with a final visit to Chelsea market with Daniel and specifically so we could enjoy a Lobster Lunch!
"Anyone for Lobster?"
I jumped and screamed from the back..."me..me...pick me!"
Num num num
Well and truly satisfied.
And it was only when I got to the airport and had some time to kill, that I realised I hadn't really eaten a true American meal yet.
So I did, and yes, it tasted the same as it does anywhere around the world. A note of caution, I made the mistake of ordering large chips, forgetting, American sizes are already huge! A lovely young woman from Sydney sat next to me, having gone for the healthier, airport chinese dumplings, but judging by the look on her face, my option turned out better!
It was a real pleasure to spend such a nice amount of time in New York City and especially with a friend.
I'll no doubt be back!