Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pride 2010

I took these photos during the Pride Parade last Sunday. To me, they represent everything that day is about.

Colour - not only because of the rainbow flags but also because of the people of every single ethnic origins that are there, including some very colourful characters.

Family - Pride may sound like the least family-friendly activity there is but it is in fact the complete opposite. Every single age, whether young or old, can be seen.

Crowds - lots and lots of people cramming the streets and hanging from balconies and fire escapes!

Monday, June 28, 2010

NYC Food Film Festival

I read about the New York Food Film Festival a couple of months ago and on a bit of a whim bought 4 tickets to what was dubbed "the World's first food truck drive-in movie", one of the events scheduled to take place during the 4-day extravaganza.

I knew that it wouldn't be hard to convince at least 3 of my friends to come and spend a whole afternoon (and most of the evening) eating and drinking alfresco under the Brooklyn Bridge, which is exactly what we did last Saturday.

The festival combines two things I love - trying lots of new things from different chefs while watching food documentaries. As the name indicates, the event centered around the City's most reputable Food Trucks and around a dozen of them congregated under the Bridge, giving us the choice of sampling anything from Rickshaw Dumplings' delicious chicken & basil creation, to Korean kimchidillas from The Krave, goats cheese and hazelnut crostinis from Pizzamoto and pastries from Street Sweets, amongst many others.

 Food Trucks are a particular obsession here and the better ones have gained quite the cult following. People readily queue in line to get to their favourite morsels of food (patience is not a virtue normally granted to New Yorkers!) and many, myself included, follow their movements in the City on Twitter. Rickshaw Dumplings (brain child of Anita Lo, former Top Chef Master contestant and Michelin starred Chef) has over 5,600 followers for example!

Food in general is a huge component of New York culture and way of life and most people consider themselves foodies, which means that there are many food events to attend throughout the year. Next up for me - Meatopia on Governors Island on July 11th where I will be going on a BBQ tasting adventure with my friend JR!

Friday, June 25, 2010


Bittersweet is what best describes last weekend as we waived goodbye to MT who decided to move back to the UK after 2 years in the Big Apple. After FM's departure just a couple of weeks ago, I feel like I can't really handle any more friends leaving for a while now!

MT and I have been close friends since we met in London 6 years ago. I will miss her more than words can express but will always feel incredibly grateful and lucky that we were able to share our experience of the City together and having her here (she moved a year after I did) shaped it in so many ways. She not only helped me feel more at home but also made it a lot more fun as we have always been partners in crime when it comes to going out and partying!

The farewell events started on Thursday night with a long night of drinks at the very Parisian looking Bar Artisanal for the main party with all of MT's colleagues and friends. Followed the next night by one last evening at MT's apartment where we diffused the rather emotional atmosphere with plenty of jokes and laughter and a few glasses of champagne.

 On Saturday morning, I had planned for MT and I to take a walking and eating tour of Astoria, which was very interesting. I fell in love with Astoria. Unlike Brooklyn (or at least the few parts of BK I know), it still feels very much like Manhattan with a similar energy and buzz, albeit a little more laid back and the visit was also a real sensory experience. While the area is known for its Greek heritage, it's actually incredibly multi-cultural and we sampled everything from freshly made, smooth and creamy mozzarella and spicy pork sausage at Dave & Tony Salumeria, to Lebanese sweets and Colombian pastries. One of my favourite tastings was in fact a Chilean hot dog from San Antonio Coffee Shop which had avocado, sour cream and fresh spicy salsa on top of it.

 On Saturday night, 8 of us gathered on KM's rooftop deck and had a picnic and sipped wine while watching the sunset over Hell's Kitchen on one side and the Hudson River on the other, and talking well into the early hours of the morning.

We somehow found the energy to all meet for brunch the next day at Boqueria and then spent the afternoon walking around Soho and Tribeca.
A few hours later and it seemed like a great idea to go for Blue Crabs at The Hideaway, which they have on specials on Sunday and Monday nights. It reminded us of last year's roadtrip when we shared the same meal in Baltimore : a pile of steaming, spicy (from the Old Bay seasoning) crabs poured straight onto our table and armed with a hammer and other torture instruments to extract (with much difficulty) the delicious flesh. And finally, for "desert", we hopped in a taxi to the new Mermaid Oyster Bar on MacDougal for a dozen Blue Points.

While I am exhausted from the lack of sleep, the excess of alcohol and the sheer range of emotions I have felt in the past couple of weeks alone, I am so happy that we all gave both FM and MT the send-off they deserve.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Petite Abeille

With 3 visits in almost as many weeks, Petite Abeille has fast become one of my favourite hangouts in the City.

The tiny Tribeca restaurant specializes in Belgian cuisine and is very much styled like a low key bistro, complete with a long dark wood bar and checked tablecloths. Tintin books and artwork adorn the walls and complete the look.

I have to admit "half priced wine" Tuesdays, while being very bad news for Wednesday mornings, is a big part of the draw of this place. But the even bigger draw is the fantastic selection of mussels dishes they are famous for. I have a particular fondness for the morish, calorie-ladden Moules Grand-Mère which are prepared in white wine, cream and bacon and served (as with all the other mussels dishes) with salty, crispy French fries. But the more traditional Moules Marinière in their heady garlicky broth are excellent too.

As my friends all love the place as well, I have a distinct feeling that I will be spending a lot more Tuesday nights at Petite this summer ... here is to hangover Wednesdays!

Photo by OKG @

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Romantic New York

My friend CT, who is just about to move to NYC from London with her husband, emailed me today asking for ideas for a special and romantic evening out in the City to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

It is with a touch of sadness that I realized that, while never having given it much thought before, I knew exactly what the ultimate romantic night out would entail for me ... yet I have never done it precisely in that way with someone I love.

To be frank, from a romance perspective, this City has been a disaster for me. I moved here a year after the (amicable) end of a 10 years relationship and while it took me some time to get used to being by myself, I was very much enjoying being single and carefree. Was I looking for a fresh start? Yes of course, but the last thing I expected in these heady first couple of weeks in New York was to fall in love ... but I did, head over heels, and quickly embarked on a short, intense and very much doomed from the start relationship (though "entanglement" may be a better description!). It took me 2 horribly long years to quash any lingering feelings I had for him and mend my broken heart. And despite various distracting flings, I have not met anyone since that I have felt any special connection with and would therefore want to spend a truly romantic evening in the company of!

Still, for what it's worth, here is what - to me - is the ultimate romantic night out in the City ...

Meet at the Metropolitan Museum late in the afternoon. Perhaps linger in the museum a little first for a stroll through the Greek and Roman gallery with its collection of handsome marble statues and imposing columns, or through the Sackler wing which houses the Temple of Dendur under a huge conservatory. Then head for the rooftop sculpture garden or more precisely the Martini bar there. Sipping a couple of cocktails above the green expanses of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline in the background is simply incredible.

Walk across the park before it gets dark, heading South West. Make your way towards the Boat House and the Bethesda Fountain and then hop into one the many rickshaws available across the bridge that overlooks both. They're great fun and will get you out of the park much faster than walking.

Arriving at the Time Warner Center, at Columbus Circle, in time for dinner is the plan. In the event that you can't score a table at the amazing but eye-wateringly expensive Per Se (which I was lucky enough to go to once), Landmark (lively) or A Voce Columbus (classy) are both great restaurants with beautiful food and plenty of dark corners to huddle into.

The perfect end to that evening for me would be to catch a late night performance at the Dizzy Jazz Club, also located in the Time Warner complex. The Club is both intimate because of its size yet impressive because of its high ceilings and particularly the wall of windows affording a magical view of Columbus Circle, the Park and the glittering skyscrapers in the distance ...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Street Fair

Great thing about having a Japanese Street Fair happening literally outside your window:
- Access to yummy spicy crab noodles is less than a minute away.

Not so great thing about having a Japanese Street Fair happening literally outside your window:
- The live/loud/frankly not so good music streaming right into my living room!

Monday, June 7, 2010

ADD Weekend

I like nothing more than busy weekends running around the City while catching up with lots of friends but sometimes I really overdo it and this weekend was a perfect example of how crazy things can get in a City that tends to breed a very short attention span.

So, the weekend saw me -

Meeting the girls at Schiller's in the Lower East Side on Saturday at 2pm for a quick Mimosa before heading off to a British Expat Pimms themed BBQ on the rooftop of the Delancey. There, we met more girlfriends and my friend PC, who is over from London for a few days, also joined for a couple of hours and a few burgers. In the early evening, I dragged the girls to Spitzer's Corner for just one drink because I wanted to quickly catch up with CB who had texted me earlier that he was there.

From there, we made an inexplicable stop at the Steve Madden shoe store across the street, drunkenly trying on the most ridiculous shoes we could find while singing loudly to the music in the store ... much to the dismay of the sales staff but to our endless amusement. We then hopped in a cab to Ace of Clubs where the Brits Expat group had organized a live music night and we danced along for a few hours until our itchy feet got the better of us again and I suggested that we go to Fat Baby for more dancing. Another friend of mine, SG, met us there at 1am and we finally all left at 3am but not without stopping at a hole in wall for a slice of pizza of course.

Get up with a bad hangover far too early on Sunday and get ready to meet an extended group of friends, including the girls, for FM's leaving brunch at Odeon in Tribeca. Linger and gossip about the night before over Bloody Marys and Eggs Benedict. Brave the by now extreme weather conditions (there was a tornado warning in the City) to head out to The Hideaway. Stayed for one drink before deciding that we really wanted to be at Forgione's instead. Drank their Cote De Provence Rose reserve dry by which point having food seemed like a good idea but we were told that the kitchen was closed. Staggered over to Flor Del Sol for tasty tapas before finally jumping into a cab home, absolutely exhausted, at midnight.

2 days. 10 bars/restaurants.

A new record, even for me!

Friday, June 4, 2010


I've said it before but one of the things I love the most about New York is its close proximity to tropical paradise, particularly in the midst of the bitterly cold winters, and short escapes to South Beach are now a January ritual for me. The Caribbeans are less than 4 hours away and it turns out that the Keys, despite being a couple of hours drive south of Miami are pretty straight forward to get to and equally heavenly.

A couple of weekends ago, a group of about 15 friends and I headed down to Islamorada, a tiny spot about half-way down the Keys to celebrate our friend FM's birthday. She is originally from Florida and wanted to celebrate this significant milestone surrounded by her family, her closest friends and on the beach! Something we all agreed was a rather fine idea.

We only stayed in the resort for three days and most of our time was spent in the lagoon, where we could swim in the sea without worrying about the strong currents of the ocean or the creatures with sharp teeth that inhabit it!

CS, ES and I did get to swim with dolphins which was something I had dreamed about doing for a very long time. They are such amazing creatures - incredibly gentle and graceful in their movements - and I loved every minute of it, even when the dolphin trainer asked me to swim out to meet one of the dolphins, Sebastian, as she had something special in mind for me. As Sebastian had just "kissed" ES and gotten a hug from CS in the previous stunts, I got a little worried about the increasing level of intimacy we were asked to share with him and what mine might entail! Was I going to be used for a hybrid dolphin/human insemination project?! All joke aside, it turns out that when Sebastian emerged from the sea in front of me, all I had to do was shake his fins :-)

Much fun was had by our raucous group throughout our stay and I have to say that our behaviour would have made any prepubescent teenager proud - from jumping fully clothed in the pool at 2am while frankly very inebriated, to involuntary parodying "Dirty Dancing" when the lovely boys we met at Tom's bar one night invited us to a house party which turned out to be staff quarters as they all worked at our hotel!
No-one made us carry watermelons* but I have a feeling that, should I decide to go back to the resort and get tennis lessons, it won't be too much of a problem! Finally, we ended the weekend in style by driving back to Miami airport in a gorgeous, gleaming red convertible Mustang.

The weekend was bittersweet however as two of my closest friends (including the birthday girl herself) are leaving in the next couple of weeks. I've written before about the City's transience and it is again proving to be the case, reminding me that this place is not as easy to live in as we'd all like to believe. MT is leaving after just 2 years, as she missed her family back in the UK far too much and never felt at home here. FM is at a stage of her life where she wants to meet a decent man and settle down to have kids - something that's hard to find in New York unfortunately ...

I feel fortunate that at least we were able to spend an entire weekend together in an ideal setting with the rest of our girlfriends, all feeling connected by a friendship that is stronger than any physical distance that life may put between us.

* For straight male readers - this is a bad reference to a scene in Dirty Dancing!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Day

While the majority of New Yorkers chose to escape the City for Memorial Day weekend in favour of the beaches of the Hamptons, I love nothing more than staying here.

I mean what's not to love about a long weekend where you can:

Score a table outside for 6 people on a Saturday night without a reservation at Flor Del Sol in Tribeca.

Share a bottle of Rose at A.O.C over brunch without looking like an alcoholic. And then sip even more Rose while sitting in a paddling pool on my friend JC's private roofdeck in the heart of the West Village.

 And let's not forget that this is the first weekend of the year where having a BBQ is in fact mandatory. Mine was at LJ's in Brooklyn and involved us grilling meat right in the street!