when friends come to town

When friends come to town, you decided to check out all the restaurants and plays that you have had on your list for ages, but just haven’t gotten around to.  You walk all over Manhattan in search of nothing in particular, but just a means of catching up and seeing all the sights. This last weekend I had one of my good college friends, Alexis, fly out from California to spend some time soaking in the amazing east coast fall.  While she arrived in a storm (no literally, there were rainstorms and overcast skies for two days), the sun came out and we managed for two glorious days in the city.

Friday turned out to be surprisingly packed, so I had to scrap the leaving early on-time plan.  Since Alexis is always good at sampling different cuisine, I decided to take her to Jeepney, a Filipino joint in the East Village.  I had been there once before and really decided on it because they served Ube ice cream for dessert, which was one of Alexis’s favorite.

When we had arrived, the hostess said there was supposed to be a 90 minute wait for a table.  Since my hunger levels would have turned to hanger levels in that time frame, we opted for bar seating and may have had more fun in doing so.  There we could watch as the bartender whipped up drink after drink, topped with various orange peel and berry art.  I wasn’t in the mood to drink, but really should have at least asked about their virgin selection.  Those juice combinations would have tasted mighty fine.  Ah well, all the more reason to go back.

IMG_3466 ^^ One great thing about friends, especially good friends, is that they are generally open to ordering and splitting a couple different items.  This means sampling more of the cuisine at half the price and still leaving room for dessert.  Entree #1 Bicol Express {slow-roasted pork shoulder, coconut milk, sili, bagoong sauce, vigan longganisa, pickled chilies and baby bok choy} and a baby pot pie.  Double thumbs up for the bicol express with the savory sauce and tender meat.   I wasn’t as much of a fan of the pot pie or bao buns we sampled, but such is life.

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^^ The real reason we ate there.  Because it’s normal to center a meal around dessert.

On Saturday we slept in (try 9.5 hours of sleep!!! unheard of and evident that my body was still recovering from Monday’s red-eye), I went for a run, and then it was off to explore Manhattan.  I took her down to one of my favorite bagel shops (since Ess-A is no longer close by) Tompkin’s Square Bagels, where we drooled over the selection of sandwiches and spreads.

IMG_3471 ^^ Whole wheat everything w/ cream cheese + lox for her and whole wheat everything with blueberry cream cheese for me.  Deeeeelish and not to mention beyond filling.  Thank goodness we were banking on walking the rest of the day.

IMG_3470  No cookies were purchased on this venture, but it makes me smile when I see black-and-white cookies in every store.  Such a symbol of New York.  The rest of the day was honestly spent walking all around the city and if my FitBit were working and syncing properly with my phone, I would be able to tell you all the steps we took, miles we walked, and calories burned 😉

IMG_8191 IMG_8195 IMG_8201 ^^ Both of us agreed that the west village is where it is at, especially with the quaint looking brownstones and lovely fall leaves.  Alexis was just glad that she could wear a winter coat and dress up for cooler weather since cooler weather is rarely a thing in California.

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Who wants to even guess how much it would cost to live in one of these apartments?  Maybe my life savings?

IMG_8211^^ Since we had eaten our bagels around brunch time, we skipped out on a full lunch meal and decided to regroup, warm our hands, and charge my phone inside a Starbucks. This happened to be my FIRST red cup of the season (despite the changing temps, I have always gone for the good ‘ol iced cold brew) and don’t see what all the controversy is about.  Anyways, a new favorite combo >> skim peppermint mocha with only 2 pumps peppermint and make it extra hot 🙂

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Got to love me some Snoopy and Macy’s 🙂 Avoiding some of the chaos, we made our way through Herald Square (NOT my favorite place in town) and up to Bryant Park where the ice skating rink and holiday shops are already open for business.  Luckily for us we managed to take a picture right before the sun set, then continued to walk around and decide on a place for dinner.  Oh if we weren’t planning to go eat a full meal later, I would have taken to buying a snack or two from the vendors because the smells were so inviting.

IMG_8216 IMG_8217 ^^ I still don’t know what that delectable concoction is/was but I will make it my goal to get someone to go back to Bryant Park with me and split one before the holiday season is over.

IMG_8220^^ Not the best quality photo buuuuuut we ate ETHIOPIAN FOOD!  I have never been to an Ethiopian restaurant and was actually baffled at the selection on the menu.  I let Alexis do the deciding and we ended up with a meat combo and veggie combo, all atop this spongey pancake.  They don’t even provide utensils and the trick is to use the pancake in order to scoop up the toppings.

So.darn.tasty and I have to say, it’s pretty cool to explore the different cuisines in the city.  After all, that is something NYC is known for and I tend to stick to my Chipotle and Bareburger.  Once we had digested a bit more, we set off in search of the musical theatre by Lincoln Center.

IMG_8222Though this is a true classic, I had never seen it, not even the movie, so this was quite the treat!  We had picked up tickets at the TKTS booth by South Street (lower Manhattan) so the tickets were 50% off and right near the orchestra!  Originally we had tried to see “An American in Paris”, but all the Saturday tickets had been sold.  Anyways, who knew they had broadway productions outside of Times Square and at Lincoln Center?  (Don’t answer that.  That may have just been me…)

IMG_3472 Since we were watching the musical at Lincoln Center, we decided to drop by Magnolia’s to complete a day of eats with a little sweet banana pudding.  Because when in Rome New York, right? I probably should stop using that excuse since I live here and work right by a Magnolias.  Or not.

“Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity.” – Khalil Gibran

Eating Beyond the Doors of Judgement

Don’t tell me you have avoided a restaurant just by the was the outside appears? Because I sure have.

Growing up I had the immense privilege of dining at nice restaurants. This was because one grandfather had been in the restaurant business and the rest of my family was relatively interested in exploring new places.
We had our fair share of cafes and delis but not without significant research. The one thing I admit we didn’t do was move off the known track of dining options and explore the more hole-in-the-wall joints. (*Granted, there is a lot of research that goes into the selection of restaurants and my dad did an awesome job.)

The other day of was coming home from an impromptu gala with one of my friends. She’s living the NY dream by exploring something new each day or at least each week; thriving off the nightly dance scene, living off coffee, and never (rarely) visiting the same place twice. it was nearing 9 o’clock and we were both ravenous. The Quest bar I had eaten around 6 was decent but not really satisfactory for dinner.

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She recommended a Filipino restaurant that she had walked past before and read solid reviews about. Always up for a challenge and adventure, I agreed and we set off. As we walked up, I was a little skeptical. I admit that I have a problem judging some things by appearance and wasn’t sure what a relatively plain looking and somewhat underwhelming sign would lead to. Oh boy was I mistaken. The moment you walked though the door it was like you a were transported to a restaurant in the tropics or Costa Rica (my only point of reference) with the smell of something rich and flavorful filling your nostrils. The premise was upscaled and revamped Philippine street food.

IMG_4710There’s a sister restaurant (Maharlika) that focuses on more authentic Filipino cuisine as well. We were seated with menus and then one of the hosts (although “host” sounds a bit uppity for this place – we’ll go with locals) dressed in an Aloha shirt came over to sell us on the menu. The way he spoke about each item was as if it was his own precious creation.

NOODLES ~ KALAMANSI ~ PANCIT ~ CHICHARON

We even had the option to have a whole fish – head and all (that one turned me off a bit…still recovering from rabbit and octopus paella two years ago in Barcelona) The minute I read ribs, there was no turning back.

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I listened enthusiastically to the rest of the menu but knew I had decided. I also selected their take on sweet potato fries and salivate as I saw other customers orders waft in front of us.

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We asked for extra sides of the famous banana ketchup – their take on the American classic, which is truly just banana died red with a bit of seasoning. The way one local explained it was that ketchup is such an American item that Filipinos looked to replicate it at home. I guess banana was the way to go. Sorry Mr Heinz. Everything was cooked to perfection. The ribs melted off the bone and I practically licked my plate clean.

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Carmen’s burger looked divine and we bother savored our sweet potato fries, which had also been crisp and flavorful. By the time we had cleared our plates, I was ready for bed. But the question of dessert arose and after hearing their verbal menu, I knew I could make room for a few more bites. Now the epic sundae of fresh fruit and ube ice cream had to be left for another date – maybe after a long run when we could pair it with bottomless mimosas. No, no sundae or flan for us, but rather a single scoop of ube ice cream, as recommended by the house and my friend back home. No regrets here.

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So there are two types of travelers – those who research and those who fly by the seat of their pants. Honestly I’m surprised I’m not more of the latter.  But, like everything else in life, a little dabble in everything and moderation does the soul wonders.