1 more sleep till Christmas.
This year’s Christmas is going to be a quiet one. Okay, it is not exactly true as we do have a Boxing Day BBQ to go to and then with friends over the day after for another party. But the Christmas Day itself will be a quiet one, possibly some baking and then just chillaxing in front of TV for some Downton Abbey (or Vicar of Dibley) marathon. So how do you celebrate Christmas this year?
Sometimes I still reminiscing that time we were in New York city during the Christmas period two years ago. The yanks sure know how to put on a show as the whole city was in festive mood and life-size Christmas decorations were everywhere. Shame we didn’t stay long enough for the big day, but spending Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve in NYC is still one of things I want to do before I die.
Remember that time I was on MasterChef and ended up doing cooking challenges in New York?
It was indeed my first time in the big apple. During the twelve days trip, we pretty much spent every single day filming for the show and left us no time to really explore the city and experience it. (That’s right, is not all fun and game being on a TV show, it was actually hard work.) So I decided to visit this city once again a year later and this time would be a proper holiday. After a long Route-66 road trip and a short stay in Chicago (part 1 & part 2), we finally touched down in NYC for the last leg of our trip.
First thing on top of our list to check out was The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. We walked through Central Park (only a small part of it, as this park is too darn big and one can easily spend a day in the park for some people watching.) from the Upper West Side to the museum. Pablo Picasso exhibition was on during our visit, but there were only so many paintings of stick figures with crooked eyes and noses you can admire before it gets all a little bit repetitive. I was actually more impressed by the architecture of the museum itself, definitely worth a visit.
Time Square is forever busy any time of the year really, we actually didn’t stay long as the crowd was unbearable and we slowly wandered over to Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall.
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is on during this time of year at the Radio City Music Hall features the Rockets, a New York City dance company that put on a song and dance extravaganza, there will be a lot of jazz hands and also the move iconic synchronised high kicks with 72 legs.
Tip – There are a lot of larger-than-life size christmas decorations around 50th and 6th Avenue that worth checking out.
The view of NYC’s skyline is simply one thing you cannot miss. There are many buildings you can go up for the bird’s-eye view of downtown Manhattan and you can also choose to go up during the day or in the evening as both will offer different perspectives of the city. As we happened to be around Rockefeller Center during the day and decided to go up 30 Rock aka GE Building to see whether Jack Donaghy is around.
Tip – While in the lift, look up as you ascend to the observatory level.
It was freezing here in NYC during December, I would say it was around 5C during day time and about -10C in the evening. I just loved the crisp air filled my lungs, looking down at downtown Manhattan, it was magical with that little winter haze in the background. We also wanted to be on top of Empire State Building but we wanted to do it at night time, for a particular reason and you will find out later in the post.
You can shop till you drop on the 5th Avenue, it is considered among the most expensive and best shopping streets in the world. The shops are indeed very high end and you better be well cashed up. Having said that, there are still plenty shops that I managed to score some good bargains including Uniqlo, H&M, American Eagle Outfitters and also Urban Outfitters (but I think I am getting too old for the young hipster stuff). I actually also loved visiting Grand Central Terminal and checking out the fresh food market there.
Keep walking down Fifth Avenue towards south, you will eventually hit the iconic Flatiron Building. If you are hungry, then you’d be happy to know that the very first Shake Shack burger kiosk is just across the street, located in the tranquil Madison Square Park. This kiosk is still the busiest among all the stores and usually there will be a long queue outside during lunch hours.
A stroll along the High Line is mandatory while in NYC. Once a busy railway line carrying goods to and from Manhattan’s largest industrial district back in 1934, it eventually stopped the operations in 1980s and had been abandoned for almost 30 years. In 1999, Friends of the High Line is founded by Joshua David and Robert Hammond, residents of the High Line neighbourhood, to advocate for the High Line’s preservation and reuse as public open space. And in 2009, it finally opened to public.
The High Line is a touch of greenery in the urban landscape. However, the winter scenery wasn’t that exciting as most plants were wilted and browned. It was an interesting walk as it offers a glimpse of New Yorkers’ lifestyle through the streets and also the apartment windows. Keep walking further South towards Meatpacking District and that’s where the Chelsea Market is.
I love, love, love, love Chelsea Market. Another place full of history and a must-visit for the food lovers. It used to be the National Biscuit Company which now reclaimed as the Chelsea Market which is an indoor food halls which has over 35 vendors purveying some of the finest gourmet produce. One of the most popular shop has to be The Lobster Place. Here many tourists will come to grab a few reasonably priced cooked lobsters for breakfast, that’s right, lobsters for breakfast; why not?
And trust me, you never go hungry in New York, so let’s get straight into it!
One of the best burger joints in NYC is well, duh! – at The Burger Joint of course. This place is well hidden in a location that you are least expected, so don’t be confused if find yourself in the lobby of the swanky Le Parker Meridient hotel – the joint is tucked right behind the heavy curtains on the left where a small neon sign of a burger glowing in the dark corner. However, usually the long queue all the way up to the hotel lobby is dead give away. Once inside, you’d be surprised to find it looks nothing like the elegant hotel but a grungy hole with beaten up tables and chair, graffiti and old posters all over the wall.
This place is busy and they work just as fast to cope with the orders. So piece of advice, you better know what you want and ready to order at the counter without “hmm-ing” and “ahh-ing“, else be prepared to have your burger comes with some New Yorker’s attitude from the kitchen for holding up the line. And don’t expect fancy ingredients in the burger either, this is right down a dirty cheese burger that will make you feel good after eating it. Juicy fatty beef patties, stretchy American cheese, soft bun and with tomato, lettuce and pickles, and dripping fat, what more could you want? Oh yes, we also spotted a famous comedian at the joint having a burger.
Tip: Get a friend to hold the seats while you queue; know what you want in mind and order swiftly at the counter.
The Burger Join at Le Parker Meridien
119 West 56th St,
+1 212 245 5000
We were pretty lucky to score a nice apartment in Meatpacking District through Airbnb that wasn’t too expensive to rent. We got tipped off by our host to check out Good Stuff Diner, one of his favourite diners in the area for hearty breakfast. Here you will find home-style breakfast at neighbourhood diner price. You better have a huge stomach because the portion size here is humungous! All eggs and omelettes on the menu comes with potatoes and toast. The pancakes were as big as my face, but I went all Lumberjack and it came with eggs, bacon, ham and sausage, all that for USD11.50, insane! We noticed some diners asked for takeaway boxes so they could them home and have it later, sadly we had to left half of our food untouched.
Good Stuff Diner
109 West 14th Street
New York, NY 10011
Opens 24 hours, 7 days
Momofuku Noodle Bar was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. We were brave enough not to make any booking and just rocked up at the restaurant early at around 6pm assuming we will beat the dinner crowd but nope, we still had to wait 30 minutes to score two seats at the bar. I actually preferred the bar seating as we got to check out all the actions in the kitchen.
First thing first, Momofuku pork buns are a MUST! These pork buns (Taiwanese gua-bao) at the Noodle Bar was still one of the best I’ve had. They were quite generous with the pork belly to a point where the soft pillowy buns couldn’t even closed properly, was messy to eat but oh so worth it. The ramen here was decent but nothing to rave about, my spicy miso ramen was a nice bowl of noodle soup that kept me warm in the chilly winter night. The brussels sprouts was simply awesome, they were tiny the size of marbles, perfectly charred with a smokey flavour mixed with a fish sauce vinaigrette. I squeezed some Sriracha sauce over them for that extra chilli kick.
Tip: Get there early. Order the pork buns.
Momofuku Noodle Bar
171 First Avenue (btwn 10th and 11th Streets)
New York City, New York, USA
Tel: +1 (212) 777 7773
Monday to Friday 12pm – 4.30pm
Saturday and Sunday 12pm – 4pm
Sunday to Thursday 5.30pm – 11pm
Friday and Saturday 5.30pm – 2am
We then moved on to The Dessert Club by ChikaLicious which is just around the corner from Momofuku noodle bar for desserts. If you are on “I quit sugar” diet, then this place is not for you; here you will find all the sugary sweetness that will send you to sugar coma. We came here late, so most items were already sold out, but we managed to share Jack Daniels Bread Pudding and also Eclair Ice Cream Sandwich, both from their specialty menu. The bread pudding is almost like a pecan pie, filled with hot caramel fudge and topped with candied pecans (or is that puh-kan?)
The Dessert Club – ChikaLicious
204 E 10th Street
East Village NY
(212) 475 0929
Mon – Fri: 8 am – midnight
Sat – Sun: 10 am – midnight
Mon – Tue: Closed
Wed – Thu: 6 pm – midnight
Fri – Sun: 3 pm – midnight
If you love rainbow, unicorn, ice cream or anything G-A-Y, then you will love Big Gay Ice Cream. Started from an ice cream truck to now with two shops in Manhattan, gay bear (and otter) couple Douglas and Bryan have brought the gayest soft serve with fancy schmancy toppings to New York City. Their enthusiasm and gayness must have rubbed off to their staffs as they were super friendly and chirpy. Two of the must try – Salty Pimp and Bea Arthur. Salty Pimp is vanilla ice cream with dulce de leche piped into it, sprinkled with sea salt and then dipped the whole thing in chocolate sauce. Named after The Golden Girls, Bea Arthur is also vanilla ice cream with piped dulce de leche then coated in crushed up Nilla wafers (american vanilla wafer cookies).
The ice creams sure brought out the gayness in all of us, and look…
It’s the Statue of Liberty! 😀
(A lady walked past as I took this photo and she had a good laugh at us. Mission accomplished.)
Big Gay Ice Cream
125 East 7th Street, New York
NY 10009, United States
1pm-11am Fri & Sat
Well, as you all know that I love my Korean Fried Chicken, I also managed to check out the BonChon Chicken near Time Square, one of the former Korean restaurants in NYC that started the whole KFC craze. We went for half-and-half of Soy Garlic and also the Hot version. The chicken here was a little different to the ones we have in Sydney, the crispy skin on these chicken wings was extra-thin and not much batter crumbs at all. The hot version was indeed hot (not the sweet and spicy version we have here), The Pom could only take a couple before considering defeated and sticked to the soy version. The Ruby Roll Sushi is also worth a try which is soft shell crab roll with avocado, cucumber and a spicy Sriracha mayo.
207 West 38th Street
New York, NY 10018
Mon-Tues: 11:30am – 10:30pm
Wed – Thurs: 11:30am – 11:00pm
Friday: 11:30am – 12:00am
Sat 11:30am – 11:00pm
If there’s not enough food for you in Manhattan, then let’s cross over to Brooklyn!
Walk over Brooklyn Bridge was another highlight of the trip. I kind of knew my way around Brooklyn area (especially Williamsburg) pretty well as we did fair bit of filming there from my first visit. I love the Bohemian vibe around Williamsburg, it reminds me a lot of Newtown, op shops, vintage shops, funky bars, tuck shops and hipsters a plenty.
I love Fette Sau BBQ in Brooklyn, it is a meat-gasm heaven! It is a M-U-S-T if you were ever in Brooklyn, go forth and order your smoked BBQ meat by the pounds and order the beer/cider by the gallons. We were planning to visit Fette Sau for lunch on a Monday afternoon but only to find that it didn’t open until 5pm! Sadness that we have to miss out this time round.
Hence we decided to walk further into the main street of Williamsburg and console myself with fried chicken instead at Pies-n-Thighs.
Pies-n-Thighs, the name itself already won me over!
Here you will find all the American classics, shrimp and grits, pulled pork sandwich, fried chicken and wash them down with old-fashion lemonade. I had my eyes set on the Chicken and Waffle and it was the best chicken and waffle I’ve had to date. It may sound odd, but possibly one of the best inventions came out of America. Two pieces of golden fried chicken were served with buckwheat waffles that were extra crispy, and who’d have thought cinnamon butter and fruit compote work extremely well with fried chicken? Another thing must try here is the Apple Pie with Cheddar – Ok, second best invention came out of America! It is all about the sweet and salty combo, so friggin’ awesome!
166 S. 4th Street (at Driggs)
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Closed 4PM – 5PM
New York is indeed the city that never sleeps. The whole Manhattan came to life at night and there was no sign of slowing down. The Time Square still looked as if like daytime brightly lit from all the billboards around.
We didn’t really have time to check out any Broadway shows when we were there but we managed to spend a fun night with Fuerza Bruta. A high energy, interactive performance that was absolutely thrilling and had us dancing with the crowd and the performers. What a great way to end our trip in USA.
But there was one more thing we had to do before leaving the country – to go up the Empire State Building at night.
They started the whole new idea of shining different lights at the top of Empire State Building Tower when we were there and the building was in bright red in honor of the NYC Firefighters. I strongly suggest to go up Empire State Building for the night view of the NYC skyline, it was simply stunning!
And here is the reason why we went up there at night, because Sleepless in Seattle in one of The Pom’s favourite movies, and he always wanted to take me up there to re-enact the last scene, so finally his wish came true. He is a romantic guy after all…
Here I would like to wish you all a safe and happy Christmas. I hope your Christmas is filled with joy, laughter, love and of course, delicious food.
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!