Fete Paradiso

The carnival has come to town!

This summer, French company Fete Paradiso, has made its American debut at Governor’s Island; bringing vintage 19th and early 20th century carnival rides, games and carousels to one of New York City’s prettiest spots.

Set in amongst the old yellow houses of Nolan Park, I imagine it’s a nice little surprise if you don’t know it’s there. The distant sounds of bells, horns, and children’s laughter draws you closer until you spy hints of *something* between the trees.

The rides and attractions have been beautifully restored and maintained. The detail on some of the pieces is remarkable.

French accordion music, interrupted every so often with cuts from the Amelie soundtrack, pumped in through the speakers adds a great touch to the atmosphere.

By far my favourite thing was this bicycle carousel, the “Velocipede”, one of only two in the world. You actually have to pedal to get the carousel going. And then they make you go backwards! Considering how much work you have to put in to it, it was great fun.

And this we just couldn’t resist, because what’s a day without a little treat? Though I think I can happily go another ten years or so without having another bite of candy floss.

My only complaint? The food! There was just one vendor and they were serving things like croque monsieur and burgers. Where are the cone crepes I can get on every street corner in Paris? Caramel popcorn? What about hot dogs in baguettes with spicy French mustard? Next year, maybe next year…

A Real Winter

It’s cold in New York tonight. The kind of cold that has you pulling your hat over your eyes and your scarf up to meet it. The kind of cold that stings your eyes and burns your cheeks. The kind of cold that makes you wish you were at home snuggled under a blanket.

12 degrees, but feeling much colder. The streets fast becoming wind tunnels pushing me forward at once and forcing me to push at the next turn. Every person seemingly a smoker, wisps of white blowing out with every breath.

It’s been a while since we’ve had weather like this and I quickly realised I’m not prepared. Luckily Uniqlo is on the way home and I was able to stock up on some HeatTech. The stuff is amazing.

20130123-211454.jpg

Now to see if I can survive the rest of the week. I look forward to a weekend being filled with bowls of soup and endless mugs of hot chocolate.

Story of a Hurricane

No power for a week and the days all begin to blend in to one another. Each night colder than the one before, you wonder how much longer you can last.

A lot of my time was spent like this, curled up under blankets with a book. So many times I’ve wished that I could take time off and do this all day, but I was going stir crazy and got out as often as I could. I even missed being able to do all those mundane things that I normally hate doing, like laundry and vacuuming. Really.

But I was definitely luckier than a lot of others – hot running water, a gas stove, and a fireplace made the experience bearable. Not sure that I could have gone much longer though, food supplies had started to run low and without a refrigerator I wasn’t exactly eating well.

I’ve been out to volunteer in the cleanup and donated warm clothing and supplies and have seen that things are still very bad for a lot of people. I feel badly that I’m back up and running when so many others aren’t…

Eats: Pig Island 2012

When some friends asked me if I wanted to go to a barbecue and eat pork all day, I didn’t need to think even for a second. For the past couple of years, for one day only, Governor’s Island has been transforming in to Pig Island.

So on Saturday September 1st we hopped on the ferry and headed over to see what 25 of New York’s best chefs could do with more than 80 whole pigs. They did not disappoint.

Peaceful and not all that crowded. The event was sold out but the space never felt too cramped, nor were any of the lines unbearably long.

These guys are from Mosefund and cooked up some of my favourite dishes of the day using Mangalitsa pork, a special breed that originated in the Austro-Hungarian empire. Here they’re grilling up Thai pork skewers with green onions. The onions were a great addition and reminded me a lot of calcotada.

This is their BBQ Mangalitsa collar with grilled peaches, pickled cabbage and Carolina sauce. The collar is smoky, and comparable to bacon in some ways. The meat was moist, with just enough fat and the sweet and sour of the salad was the perfect accompaniment.

See how charred the skin gets, the meat is beautifully tender inside.

Head cheese on black bread with homemade mustard and pickled onions from Waterfront Ale House.

Spicy Korean roasted pork bun with plum sauce, pickled peaches and cucumber from Delicatessen. Another favourite. The ratio of bun to filling was just right and those little crunchy bits sprinkled on the top – amazing!

Pate and a honey butter biscuit from Joe Doe’s.

After all that food (there is a LOT that I didn’t photograph, some things just get eaten before you think to snap a pic) we decided to take a little walk around and make room for round two.

Governor’s Island was most recently a Coast Guard installation and before that an Army post. There are lots of interesting old administrative buildings and former barracks, like the ones pictured below.

I think we managed to burn off all of twenty calories before heading back around for some more hogs.

Whole pig wiener with roasted tomato ketchup and spicy cucumber relish from The Darby.

Ovelia Psistaria brought Greek-style pulled pork on pita as well as homemade sausage.

Edi and The Wolf’s grilled pork belly with arugula, peach and rye bread-mustard vinaigrette. This was a highlight for me.

Casa Mono – Pork, smoked maple banana sauce, fried plantain and sherry lime vinaigrette.

Tacos al Pastor from Hecho en Dumbo. Slow grilled chile marinated pork served with caramelized pineapple on handmade corn tortillas.

As you can see we were lucky to have gorgeous weather and were able to stay until the last ferry out. I’ll definitely be heading back next year for the next Pig Island, but Governor’s Island is a great place to go for the day even without all the bbq.

Missing in Action

I haven’t updated here in a while and I’ve been trying to figure out how most of the summer went by without a single post. So what have I been doing?

There was some volunteering, which is hungry work, so naturally it was followed by long, boozy brunches and lunches.

Brunch at Recipe

Lunch at Fatty Crab

A few great shows, because without them no summer of mine is complete.

There has been a LOT of house hunting which, again, is hungry work. Pounding the pavement all day rushing to appointments means you grab something along the way. But as you can see fast food doesn’t have to be boring.

The Wangding from Asia Dog comes topped with Chinese bbq pork belly.

The Cardoz Num Pang – black pepper braised lamb with chili yoghurt.

Lots of laughs at Indecision in the Park during Summerstage.

John Hodgman was the MC for the night. A lot of regulars from the show – Kristen Schaal, Wyatt Cenac, Al Madrigal – were there, but the highlights for me were Rory Albanese (one of the show’s producers), Mr. John Oliver, and the hysterical Lewis Black.

Sushi of course…

And an amazing performance by The New York Philharmonic on the Great Lawn in Central Park. Alan Gilbert conducted Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 and Respighi’s Fountains of Rome and Pines of Rome.

The night ended with a fireworks display over the city.

Lacquered: Spring Fling

When I was younger I never wanted any colour on my nails at all. Ever. Now I’m very much the opposite; I can never have too many colours to choose from or get my nails done often enough.

I’ve tried most brands of polish out there and have heard a lot about Priti NYC (and lusted over their amazing selection of colours), but had never bought any. Most likely because buying a product like this online often means you end up with something that doesn’t look quite like the picture. But as soon as I saw this new polish set, I had to have it.

Called Turkish Sorbet, the collection includes four light, bright shades that are perfect for Spring.

From left to right you have Red Maple, Horned Poppy, Lungwort, and Day Flower. There is not one that that I would trade, I love them all. The colours are richer and brighter in real life than in the images on their website, but not so different as to be mistaken for another colour entirely.

The consistency of the polish is great – smooth and thick enough to achieve the perfect look in two light coats. The consistency is also the same across all four colours which is something I don’t always find. The polish dries smoothly and quickly, so it’s ideal for a rush job at home.

Now, what colours should I buy next?

Eats: Shake Shack

Madison Square Park is one of my favourite places in the city. Near Flatiron and flanked by Madison Ave, Broadway and 5th Ave you wouldn’t expect it to be as peaceful as it is. During the warmer months I often find myself taking a walk through the park, or stopping to sit and read a book. Being able to grab a burger from Shake Shack just makes it that much better.

I discovered this place quite by accident not longer after it first opened. One day I noticed a long line of people snaking around one end of the park. After seeing that they were waiting for burgers and shakes I quickly joined the back of the line. I’ve been going back ever since. Originally they were only open from April – October, but thankfully they are now open all year round, with patio heaters in the winter.

There are about 5 or 6 locations throughout the city now, but in my opinion this one is the best. The food doesn’t taste as good at the other restaurants and of course they don’t have the perfect setting that this one does.

The menu is pretty simple – burgers, fries, hotdogs and shakes. I usually get a ShackBurger but am a big fan of the ‘Shroom burger too. On this visit I went for the special – the Smoke Shack – basically a ShackBurger topped with applewood smoked bacon and cherry pepper relish. It was delicious.

If you’ve never been before I recommend going for the ShackBurger, fries and definitely a milkshake. I used to think that I couldn’t manage a milkshake and the food, but they are too good to pass on.

(Sorry for only having one food pic, but there was very little light by the time we got our food.)

Only 8:15 and I’m ready to go home.

Food: Little Pie Company

I only usually eat dessert when I go out to dinner. Although I love a sweet treat, as far as cooking goes pastry is not my strong suit. So besides the odd box of chocolates and packet of biscuits (cookies) there’s nothing much in the way of dessert around the house.

Some years ago I was at a friend’s place for dinner and she had some really great apple pie for dessert. I just assumed it was made by her mother who is a fantastic cook and is always sending her food, but was surprised to hear that she picked it up from a local pie shop – the Little Pie Company. Soon after I picked some up to take to a family dinner; they were a huge hit and everyone wanted to know why I hadn’t brought more. Ever since then I always get requests for these pies whenever I’m headed to visit someone outside the city.
I don’t know much about where they got their start but at one point they did have 3 locations which made it very convenient to get my fix. Unfortunately now they are down to just one location – Hell’s Kitchen. I suppose I should just be glad that they haven’t disappeared completely like a lot of other great places in this city, but it was a sad day when their Grand Central Terminal outpost was replaced by yet another cupcake shop.

Their Hell’s Kitchen shop is small, but cosy. A large part of the space is of course dedicated to making the pies, and you can see the bakers in action. There are a few tables near the window and some outside, but it’s mostly a takeout spot. Their pies are available in three sizes – 5″, 8″ and 10″ – and by the slice. The 5″ is the perfect size for two people to share, or a good option if you are looking to get an assortment to satisfy a lot of different tastes.
Though the majority of the pies, and what they are known for, are of the sweet variety they do have some savory pot pies available as well as a selection of cakes. My favourite pie flavours are the key lime, southern pecan and apple. The key lime is made with real key lime juice and not regular limes like some key lime pie you find outside The Keys, though this version does not have any meringue topping. With the right balance of tart and sweet it’s one of the best pies I’ve ever had. It’s best straight from the fridge, cold and creamy.
Of course their apple is a classic and I love the crust best of all – flaky and buttery. I normally go for the larger pies, but when it comes to the apple I prefer the 5″ since you get a much better ratio of crust to filling. Obviously this won’t work if you’re feeding a lot of people, but if you’re not it’s the way to go. Warm from the oven with a scoop of ice cream, a slice of this is a real comfort.
These pies are now the traditional dessert at my family’s Thanksgiving table. When I first found out about this place I could stop in after work on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and pick up any pie I wanted. That is definitely not the case now. The line of people waiting for their pies is around the block. They’re obviously doing something right.

Whirlwind Weeks

Yesterday was the most beautiful day – almost 70° with the sun shining brightly. B and I stepped out to get some lunch and I realised how much I’ve been looking forward to the summer. People filled the streets and with no coats and scarves to drag them down there more smiles than frowns. I felt lighter, and for a while forgot all my troubles.

The last week or two have been pretty busy and I don’t know where all the time has gone. First, there was a quick trip to Philadelphia, so quick in fact that the only pictures I managed to take were around 30th Street Station.

Then J broke the news that she had found another job. We’ve been a team for the past 2 years and our relationship has grown so much beyond work, so it was pretty hard to take. It’s a strange feeling to be happy for someone and so sad all at the same time. I just hope that I was able to teach her something that will prove useful in her career. All the best J, I miss you already!

Next, I was off to a volunteer event that had us taking a group of under-12’s to the Met. We had to get the kids to the museum on 2 subways and I was exhausted by the time we got there. The idea was that we would explore two wings, but we barely got through the one. I thought children had limitless reserves of energy? Most of these kids just wanted to find somewhere to sit down. Fine by me, I could have used a nap.

And if spending almost 6 hours walking all over NYC with a group of kids wasn’t tiring enough, the next day I had plans to go house-hunting in Brooklyn. What was I thinking? I spent most of the morning just counting down the time until I could finally go and have lunch. This banh mi was perfect – spicy and rich with perfectly crusty bread and lots of pickled veggies. The house hunting was a bust, nothing felt right for me, and so the search continues.

That Monday I was set to fly out to St. Louis for some meetings – all IT stuff, and pretty boring. I was there for 3 days but spent most of my time in a conference room. They ordered in lunch every day so there was little opportunity to escape and take a wander. Luckily we were really close to the Gateway Arch, so I at least got to see that.

I then luckily had a couple of much needed days off work, and instead of doing anything constructive I decided to sit around and eat a lot. Here we have a breakfast risotto full of porky goodness, delicious.

I ended the mini-holiday with a visit to Princeton. Nice to get away to somewhere quiet and spend time wandering all over those old buildings with their hidden passageways.

And now it’s back to reality and routines.

Restaurant: Ippudo

Woke up early and braved the freezing cold on Sunday to head to Chelsea where Gabi and I had signed up to volunteer at a soup kitchen. I knew it would be good once I got there, but was seriously having second thoughts as the wind whipped my hair and my fingers started to freeze. Why I thought I should walk I have no idea. I was assigned the task of ladling out bowls of soup. I was just glad to be behind the food service counter and not have to go around serving trays of food. I thought I’d be in for some major wrist pain, particularly after hearing that we’d serve at least 1000 people, but it was our backs and feet that were killing us at the end of service.

What could you want more after standing over a vat of boiling soup for 3 hours? A big bowl of hot soup of course! It was so cold and we were so tired and hungry we knew it would hit the spot. Since it was just a few blocks away we decided to head over to Ippudo. I’ve wanted to go before to see if it’s worth all the hype, but the long queue has always put me off. But it was 4pm on a Sunday and with only a few people waiting ahead of us we waited for less than 20 minutes. The restaurant is a lot larger than it seems from the narrow entrance and bar area in front. The majority of the dining room is set up with canteen-style tables, with a few roomy booths for big parties. And like many other Japanese restaurants it’s pretty hectic and loud.

We started with the pork buns. These were delicious. I love pork buns but hate that the dough is often sweet, these didn’t have even a hint of sweetness. The bun was soft and fluffy and not too thick. The pork belly was perfectly cooked and the sauce tangy, there was also some spicy mayo in the bun that while not as spicy as I would have liked, did add a little bite. My only complaint is that the ratio of bun to filling was off, there was not nearly enough pork.

Gabi got the miso ramen and I chose the classic. The broth was perfect, not too salty, and full of flavour. The noodles still had a little bite to them and the pickled radish and vegetables were crunchy. Unfortunately the pork loin was dry and overcooked. Gabi said hers was fine so maybe I was just unlucky. The good thing is the pork is only a small part of the whole dish, the rest of the flavours came together really well and the seasoned egg added some richness.

Overall it was a good meal that warmed us up, but I don’t think it’s worth the long line that a lot of people have been willing to wait in. I’ve had better ramen at Yakitori Taisho and Totto Ramen. If you are intent on going you’ll be seated a lot more quickly if you’re a party of 2 or fewer – we saw a lot of single diners while we were there. Another little tip is that if you go in a few hours before you actually want to eat you can make a reservation for later that day. Just make sure you’re nice to the host because there’s actually no strict reservation policy so they can turn you down if they want to.

It appears that I’ve only been writing about the Japanese food I’ve been eating. That, or all I eat is Japanese food. I will correct this. Though the more I think about it I see this blog has become pretty food-centric which can only mean that I’ve been spending most of my time eating. Maybe that’s really what needs correcting.