Eating Along the L Train & Going for a Boat Ride

As enjoyable as a walk around the East Village always is, riding the East River Ferry at night was the highlight of the day. I hope to visit Williamsburg next year and go further into Brooklyn on the L train as well.

During my first visit to Williamsburg, I walked across the Williamsburg Bridge and had lunch at Motorino. It was January 2015 and the weather was so cold that both my iPad and iPhone shut off. I managed to get some nice pictures, but it was not the most comfortable experience. Like much of the travel I do, I had an urge and was not going to let cold weather get in the way.

For my second visit to Williamsburg, all I had to wear was a t-shirt and light jacket. It was around 50 degrees the day after Christmas. I remember it being warm like that in Cleveland around December 2006, but for a lifelong East Coast guy, that’s still a rarity.

I started by taking the L train from 6th Ave to Bedford Ave. Normally, when I take the L train, I get off at 1 Av to visit my favorite neighborhood (East Village). This time, I took it one more stop (into Brooklyn). As soon as I arrived in Williamsburg, I realized it warranted further exploration. The area looked “up and coming.”

I stopped for lunch at Fornino which had been on my list of pizzerias to try since earlier in the year. I was there for their pizza, but they had some interesting appetizers and I had a friend to share with.

We started with eggplant rustica, then had baked clams, followed by portabella mushrooms (with goat cheese) and finally, a margherita pizza. For dessert, we shared the lemon & olive oil cake with strawberry sorbet. Nothing went to waste and I would be interested in trying their Greenpoint location next time I’m in that area.

Walking east on North 7th Ave will lead you to Woops (on Driggs Ave). They have around a dozen French macaron flavors and the place gets pretty crowded. Konditori (Swedish Expresso) has a location on North 7th Ave as well.

Artists & Fleas Williamsburg Brooklyn 12-26-2015
Pin Your Home City

West of the Bedford Ave stop on North 7th Ave. is Artists & Fleas’ Williamsburg location (there’s another inside the Chelsea Market). Compared to the Cheslea Market, Williamsburg was much less crowded. I bought my favorite necklace (preserved dragonfruit) from Glitter Limes at the Chelsea location last year and it’s still my favorite.

East River from East River Park in Williamsburg Brooklyn 12-26-2015

East River Park is northwest of Artists & Fleas and provides some great photo ops. It’s not as impressive at Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City, but still worth a visit. Oddfellows Ice Cream is along Kent Ave, but they were closed for the holidays.

For a light snack, we stopped at Rosarito Fish Shack. The place looks very interesting from the outside and the same is true of the interior. We shared a salmon ceviche as well as the carne asada tacos (each order comes with two).

woman looking out at Manhattan from Williamsburg Brooklyn 12-26-2015
The East River Ferry Arrives

The East River Ferry Terminal is northwest of Oddfellows. I decided that this would be a good (first) time to take a boat across the East River. It was getting cold outside and neither my friend, nor I felt like walking back to Bedford Ave to catch the L train. While waiting for the ferry, we walked around the Northside Piers and took some pictures. While walking, we saw a man showing his friends around explaining how back in the 1990s, cab drivers often refused to take people to Williamsburg. I heard a similar story while walking around Gantry Plaza State Park a couple months earlier.

East River Ferry Terminal in Williamsburg Brooklyn 12-26-2015
Northside Pier

Most of the East River Ferry stops are in Brooklyn. There is one (Long Island City) in Queens and two in Manhattan. Our choices were to go to either East 34th Street or Wall Street. We chose the first boat that arrived (Wall Street). The ride is quick. In our case, it stopped in South Williamsburg, DUMBO, then Wall Street. Although a ferry ride is more than double the cost of a subway or bus ride, it’s much more scenic. We got to ride under the BMW (or WMB since we were going south) bridges. It was dark outside, so the city was well lit.

It’s easy to get the M15 bus north from Water Street, which is just two short blocks west of the ferry stop at Wall Street. Our destination was the East Village (my favorite neighborhood). The bus stops at East 8th Street (Saint Mark’s Place) and 1st Ave. We stopped at Macaron Parlour at ended up getting advice from Simon Tung on where to go for dim sum in Chinatown.

potato shrimp at Ramen Setagaya East Village 12-26-2015
Potato Shrimp at Ramen Setagaya

There are great places to eat all along 1st Avenue, but 2nd Ave has plenty as well. After you cross 2nd Ave, you can have gelato at DF Mavens, Belgian fries at Friterie, bubble tea at CoCo Fresh Tea & Juice and ramen at Ramen Setagaya without even making it halfway to 3rd Ave.

As enjoyable as a walk around the East Village always is, riding the East River Ferry at night was the highlight of the day. I hope to visit Williamsburg next year and go further into Brooklyn on the L train as well.

 

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Famous Pizza & Tajik Food Along the Q train in Brooklyn

Luzzo’s, Motorino and Franny’s are among my favorites. Although there are still several on my list of places to try (Totonno’s, Lucali and Fornino come to mind), I crossed DiFara off my list on December 20, 2015.

My most memorable trips to Brooklyn started with the Slice of Brooklyn tour on December 4, 2011. My cousin offered me her extra ticket and I gladly accepted. Before that, my only experiences in Brooklyn were driving to Coney Island to take a few pictures and having dinner at Tommaso’s Ristorante. The Slice of Brooklyn tour introduced me to Grimaldi’s as well as L & B Spumoni Gardens. I’ve visited both places several times since, especially the latter.

L & B Spumoni Gardens 12-3-2015
Sicilian Pie at L & B Spumoni Gardens

In the past couple years, I’ve gone to some of the pizzerias I’d been reading about in Time Out New York, most of which are in Brooklyn & Manhattan. Some have locations in both boroughs. Luzzo’s, Motorino and Franny’s are among my favorites. Although there are still several on my list of places to try (Totonno’s, Lucali and Fornino come to mind), I crossed DiFara off my list on December 20, 2015.

Margherita Pizza at Franny's in Brooklyn 11-8-2015
Margherita Pizza at Franny’s

I’d wanted to go to DiFara a couple other times, but it never seemed to work out. There’s so much hype and I just wanted to try a $5 slice to see if it was deserved. Nobody I knew that tried their pizza ever complained about the price (which is more than double most other places I’ve been to). Based on what I’d heard, I expected a bit of a wait when I got there.

DiFara 12-20-2015
DiFara Pizza

My plan for the day was to get a box of macarons at Bisous Ciao on Bleecker Street, have a late lunch at DiFara, an early dinner in Sheepshead Bay and dessert in Brooklyn’s Chinatown. Just like when I visited Franny’s last month, I picked up the D train at W 4 St-Wash Sq and transferred to the Coney Island bound Q train at Atlantic Ave.-Barclays Ctr. I figured it would take about an hour to get a slice at DiFara.

When I exited the Q train at Avenue J, my first impressions of Midwood were that of a quiet (by Brooklyn/NYC standards) area with a famous landmark. The line outside the door at DiFara was less than ten people, so I didn’t get alarmed. The main dining area (which was smaller than I could have expected) was closed for a private party. Everyone had to go to DiFara Dolce Fatts Café around the corner to place their orders. I ordered one slice of round and one slice of square and was told it would be a 45 to 60-minute wait. This seemed longer than I expected, so I went for a slow walk around the immediate area.

Domenico DeMarco in DiFara  kitchen 12-20-2015
Dom DeMarco in action

While walking around the neighborhood, I noticed that the other pizzerias were almost empty. Since there’s not much to see in the immediate vicinity, I went back to Fatts Café and waited. The (very small) room had filled up in my absence and new walk-ins were being told there was a two-hour wait. After waiting another 90 minutes, I was told that my round slice was ready, but not my square. I decided to try the round slice and it was good.

round pizza at DiFara 12-20-2015
round slice ($5 each) at DiFara

After waiting another 30 minutes, I was told that the private party was over and I could go to the pizzeria and wait for my square slice. Even with a new iPhone 6S, loaded with plenty of great apps and books, I was beginning to get bored. I jumped at the chance.

Domenico DeMarco cutting basil at DiFara 12-20-2015
Dom DeMarco cutting fresh basil

There was something amazing about watching Dom DeMarco work. He moved extremely slow, but nobody seemed to care. How many other pizzerias could get away with this? After 15 minutes of watching Mr. DeMarco work, my square slice was ready. Unlike the round slice I had, I ate this one hot out of the oven. It was amazing. As good as anything I’ve ever tasted! Next time I go, I will bring a friend and order a square pie.

square pizza at DiFara 12-20-2015
While eating this square slice, I forgot that I waited nearly three hours. I was “in the moment”

It was already dark out by the time I left DiFara. I boarded the Coney Island bound Q train for the 10-minute ride to Sheepshead Bay. I’d first heard of Sheepshead Bay in the Aerosmith song “Bone to Bone (Coney Island White Fish Boy).” I knew from reading his recent autobiography that Mark Bell (Marky Ramone) used to live there as well. Since I’d been to Brighton Beach before, I decided to have dinner in Sheepshead Bay and then walk to Brighton Beach to catch the Q train back to Manhattan. Dessert in Chinatown would have to wait until the next time.

I found Dushanbe (named after the capital of and largest city in Tajikistan) on Yelp, after searching for “Russian food.” I’d had Georgian food in the East Village back on July 4, but never had any from the other former Soviet-bloc countries. Whenever I go to an ethnic restaurant, I try to find out how authentic it really is. For example, the Thai restaurant I tried in Lima last month didn’t have a single Thai person working there.

After sampling a fish platter as well as a lamb kebab with some of their amazing bread, I was glad I tried this place. The prices were extremely affordable, especially considering its still NYC. The fish platter cost $14.95. I would expect to pay more than that in Allentown or Harrisburg. The lamb kebab was the most tender I can remember having.

fish sampler at Cafe Dushanbe in Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn 12-20-2015 Insta
fish platter at Dushanbe

On my way out, I asked what kind of restaurant I had just eaten at and was told that it’s the only Tajik restaurant in New York City. I enjoyed it more than the Georgian restaurant I tried back on July 4 and would consider going again. After leaving the restaurant, I walked across the Ocean Ave pedestrian bridge where a few different people were fishing in Sheepshead Bay. The houses along Shore Blvd are palatial. I was in the mood to walk a bit, so I took Neptune Ave to Coney Island Ave to Brighton Beach Ave and caught the Q train back to Manhattan.

NYC Chocolate & Macaron Tour

Most of my group was from Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley and had never tried this style of Pizza before. Using a fork and knife to eat pizza was not something they were accustomed to.

My most recent NYC food & neighborhoods tour was different from the previous one. Last time, a bus took us everywhere, while this time my group and I started with a dim sum brunch at Jing Fong in Manhattan’s Chinatown and then went everywhere on foot and via subway.

NYC Food & Xmas Spectacular 12-6-2015 Brian
tour flyer

My 1st dim sum brunch was back in June with a Chinese friend. I was excited that our tour would start that way, but concerned that we would have no room for pizza later in the day. At brunch, I finalized my plan for the day and ate every appetizer with shrimp.

Dim Sum at Jing Fong NYC 12-6-2015
inside Jing Fong on Elizabeth Street

The tour I advertised included a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. This is a risky thing to advertise in December. I had an alternate plan which would have cut Brooklyn out of the tour, but it was around 55 degrees and nobody in the group wanted to change the plan.

Walking over the Brooklyn Bridge 12-6-2015
walking across the Brooklyn Bridge

On the last tour, everything took more time than I allowed for. This time, everything took less time than I planned. Our walk from Chinatown to DUMBO took less than an hour. The last time (that’s a Rolling Stones song) I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge was in October 2013, on my way to a (nearly three hour) Pearl Jam concert at the Barclays Center. Only one other person in my group had ever walked over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Brooklyn & Manhattan Bridges from Booklyn Bridge Park 12-6-2015
Brooklyn Bridge on the left, Manhattan Bridge on the right

After a photo op filled walk across the bridge, we followed Tillary Street to Cadman Plaza, which turns into Washington Street, which took us to Jacques Torres only Brooklyn location on Water Street. I bought a box of 12 chocolates and let everyone else do their shopping. Most bought something. I’m usually the one who buys the most, but someone else bought a box of 25.

Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn Bridge Park 12-6-2015
Brooklyn Bridge from Main Street Park under Manhattan Bridge

From Jacques Torres, we followed Main Street to Main Street Park, so everyone could get pictures of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. After a quick walk along Washington Street to York Street to Jay Street, we boarded the F train, bound for the 2 Av Station between the Lower East Side and East Village. Most of my group had never been in the subway before.

selection at Jacques Torres Brooklyn 12-6-2015
selection at Jacques Torres

Our next destination was Bisous Ciao on the Lower East Side. They were running a happy hour special where you buy two and get one free. Everyone sampled the different flavors. Those who took my suggestion and tried the salted caramel were not disappointed. I bought a box of six and we headed to Essex Street, which turns into Avenue A.

tour group at Bisous Ciao LES NYC 12-6-2015
Bisous Ciao on Lower East Side

After a left turn on Saint Mark’s Place (East 8th Street), we arrived at Macaron Parlour, where I bought a box of six and let everyone else try the different flavors. I tend to avoid the more eccentric flavors there. “Party time” is my favorite.

Macaron Parlour 12-6-2015
me offering advice at Macaron Parlour in East Village

After Macaron Parlour, we walked to First Avenue then north to East 12th Street to Motorino. We all shared Margherita Pizzas. Even after dim sum, I ate 3 slices and did not feel stuffed. Most of my group was from Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley and had never tried this style of Pizza before. Using a fork and knife to eat pizza was not something they were accustomed to.

Margherita at Motorino East Village 12-6-2015
Margherita Pizza at Motorino in East Village

From 14th Street, we took the L train to the 6 train to 51st street to sample Japanese and Belgian Chocolates. Royce gives out a free mini box of green tea nama to anyone who checks in on Yelp. Since the refrigerator at my house usually has at least a couple different flavors of Royce chocolates, I just took the free ones, but the people in my group bought chocolate covered potato chips.

I had not been to Leonidas since earlier in the year and that was our next (and final) destination, just a block south on Madison Ave. My favorites there are the speculoos and champagne truffles. Since I’m not in this area very often, I bought a half pound of truffles while the people in my group sampled some other flavors.

As our chocolate and macaron tour was coming to an end, we walked to Rockerfeller Center so everyone could take pictures of the tree. Our tour ran ahead of schedule so there was almost an hour before we had to meet the bus on 49th street between 8th and 9th Avenues (the bus was not allowed to drive to Rockerfeller Center).

Xmas tree at Rockerfeller Center 12-6-2015
Christmas Tree at Rockerfeller Center

 

Pizza, Macarons & Other Sweet Things in Manhattan & Queens

In total, we visited 3 pizzerias, 5 cafes (4 for macarons, 1 for Belgian wafels), an Italian Ice stand and an Asian food court. That’s more than 10 places where at least one of us ate something. The funny thing was that we ate small portions at each place and neither of us felt sick, stuffed or whatever you may call it. We felt satisfied both with the sights we saw and the food we ate.

Over Labor Day weekend, I had the pleasure of taking a friend to New York City for her first visit. We drove from Eastern Pennsylvania to the Newport PATH station, arriving around noon. Since this would be my friend’s first visit to the big apple after 12 years in the United States, I wanted to make it memorable. That would not mean taking her directly to Times Square. New York City has (sorry, Chicago!) the best pizza in the country and the most options for French macarons of any city I’ve been to outside of France. Since my friend is in the restaurant business, I thought a food tour would be the best way to show her my favorite city in the world.

In addition to never visiting New York City, my friend had also never been in an underground train. We parked at the the Newport mall in Jersey City and took the PATH train into Manhattan. Fifteen minutes later, we exited at Christopher Street. Why start in the West Village? Well, in addition to being the first PATH stop in Manhattan, Bleecker Street also boasts one of the best Neapolitan-style pizzerias in New York City (Keste) and is home to the critically acclaimed salted caramel macaron (at Bisous Ciao). We made a left out of the PATH station and then a right onto Bleecker Street. It took less than five minutes to get to Keste, where we shared a Regina Margherita. My friend loved the fresh tomatoes.

Less than a block (make a left out of Keste) away, the next stop on our food tour was Royce Chocolate. This was special because my friend spent years working for a Japanese company and had the opportunity to visit Japan on multiple occasions. She always said that Japanese chocolates were her favorite. Between their four locations in New York and New Jersey, I’ve visited dozens of times and have a routine. If I have none at home, I get one box of Champagne Pierre Mignon and one box of Au Lait. My friend did not ask for my advice this time and she bought a white chocolate bar as well as a box of Praline Truffles. One great thing about Royce is that they individually wrap everything you buy in a small bag with an ice pack, which is supposed to keep the chocolates cool for seven hours. When it’s over 80 degrees and sunny, this really comes in handy. Some flavors sell out early, but you don’t have to worry about making Royce your last stop since they will never melt with the ice pack.

Make another left out of Royce and in less than one block, you’ll arrive at Bisous Ciao. Their salted caramel macaron is my personal favorite. If someone were to ask me what is so great about French macarons, I would take them to Bisous Ciao and have them try their salted caramel. Along with their blood orange, salted caramel made Time Out’s list of the best macarons in NYC. Since my friend is Thai, she tried the Thai Tea, along with the sour cherry. Earlier this year, the Bleecker Street location started serving pastries and drinks and now offers seating.

After three stops in the West Village, it was time to head to my favorite neighborhood in NYC for food: the East Village. The W 4 St-Washington Square subway station is right around the corner from the 200 block of Bleecker Street. From there, you can either take the F train two stops towards Brooklyn and exit at 2 Av or take it one stop towards Queens and then take the L train towards Brooklyn, exiting at 1 Av.

Our next stop was Luzzo’s for a bufala pizza. Although my friend preferred Keste, this is my favorite thin crust pizza in the country. They just recently started accepting all major credit cards.

Bufala at Luzzos East Village NYC
Bufala at Luzzo’s in the East Village

If you make a right out of Luzzo’s and then make the next right at East 12th Street, you will arrive at Motorino. We stopped here for a Margherita, knowing this would be our last pizza for the day. Motorino plays the best (in my opinion) music of the three places we had pizza at. It was also the first place where I had Neapolitan-style pizza in NYC. As a 30-something, there’s something special about hearing 80s pop music in a small pizzeria. Songs that I don’t have in my iTunes library and never intend to have there sound better in a small pizzeria.

After Motorino, we got back on 1st Avenue and headed one block south to Veniero’s (on East 11th Street), which is my favorite pastry shop in Manhattan. As their sign says, they’ve been in business since 1894. There’s a reference to their cannoli in the film CBGB. I’ve been here dozens of times and have never been in and out in under 10 minutes. There’s always a line, but it’s worth the wait. My favorite is the camilia, but I usually get the blood orange delight as well. My friend opted for Tiramisu and a berry tart.

We got back on 1st Avenue and headed south for three blocks and turned left onto Saint Mark’s Place (8th Street). Halfway between 1st Avenue and Avenue A is Macaron Parlour (my favorite place for macarons). Both of their locations have seating, free water and a restroom. The macarons are as large as any I’ve seen in NYC and also cost less than the ones at Bisous Ciao or La Miason du Macaron.

Although nobody would consider $15 for a box of 6 macarons to be a bargain, you can take a class to find out what goes into them, how easy it is to get the shells wrong and just how much practice it takes to get good enough that you’re not throwing out more than you are able to sell. I took a class at Macaron Parlour’s East Village location in the summer of 2014 (taught by co-owner Christina Ha), which reinforced the respect I have for the art of macaron making.

No other place that sells macarons in NYC has as much of a down to earth feel as Macaron Parlour. Even their other location on the Upper West Side has the same kind of vibe. They have some unique flavors in addition to the standard ones. My friend and I each got a box of 6. I think that the absolute must-try flavors at Macaron Parlour are giggity, s’mores and party time, all three of which use chocolate. To complete my box of 6, I got caramel fleur de sel, lemon basil and rosemary olive oil. They have some rotating flavors as well. Depending on what they are, I sometimes get a box of 12. My friend also settled for a box of 6, although she prefers the more fruity flavors.

Our final stop in the East Village was Wafels & Dinges at Avenue B & East 2nd Street. I normally get a wafel with Nutella and spekuloos, but this time I replaced the Nutella with dulce de leche. My friend chose a wafel with ice cream, but seemed unsure of which flavor ice cream. I insisted she try the spekuloos flavor. We shared our two choices and I enjoyed both. She did as well. They sell their spekuloos spread by the jar and since I had none left at home, I got a jar to go.

We picked up the F train at 2 av and took it up to 23 st to try more macarons. La Maison du Macaron is conveniently located on West 23rd street near the F, M & Path lines. Their flavors change more frequently than either Bisous Ciao or Macaron Parlour. Like Macaron Parlour, they have a little café, (including a restroom) as well as some other pastries, including marzipan. I prefer to buy the Bergen marzipan that Veniero’s sells.

From La Maison du Macaron, you can walk 13 blocks north up either 6th or 7th Ave to Macaron Café (also between 6th & 7th Avenues). Although they have three locations in the greater midtown area and one in Tribecca, we chose the one on West 36th Street because it was the closest. Macaron Café has the most impressive array of flavors. What makes them unique is their seasonal options. Depending on the time of year, you can get pumpkin cinnamon, gingerbread or 4th of July. When I visit one of their locations, I get flavors I am unlikely to find elsewhere like chestnut, orange blossom, tahini sesame and crème brulee. Their coconut and Nutella macarons made the Time Out 2015 list of best macarons in NYC.

My friend is Thai and so far, I had only taken her to Belgian, French and Italian restaurants and cafes. Her only request for the day was to see Chinatown. I find Manhattan’s Chinatown to be too crowded, so after leaving Macaron Cafe, we walked to the 5 Av stop on the 7 train and boarded the train to Queens. This allowed her to take both an underground and elevated train. We exited the 7 train at 103 St-Corona Plaza and walked east to 108th Street and then 12 short blocks south to The Lemon Ice King of Corona. It’s not the most conveniently located place, but the variety of flavors and quality more than make up for it. They don’t mix flavors, so my friend and I tried a total of 5 different small cups at $1.50 each.

Our next destination was Flushing (my favorite of the 3 largest Chinatowns in NYC). From The Lemon Ice King of Corona, you can walk east to 111th Street and then head north to the 111 st stop on the 7 train. This will put you only two stops away from the Flushing Main St station. Knowing the area, I decided to show my friend a trick. The Q58 bus stops right outside The Lemon Ice King of Corona. It’s about a 20 minute ride to Main Street in Flushing and I wanted her to experience a city bus as well. We were also tired from all of the walking. The Q58 bus takes I-495 (Long Island Expressway) through Flushing Meadows Corona Park and then along College Point Blvd. The subway lines do not run along these roads.

After arriving at the corner of 41st Road and Main Street in Flushing, my friend commented on how it looked like Bangkok. I spent a week in Bangkok back in 2013 and have visited other Thai cities since then. Her observation made sense to me. The only obvious difference would be Chinese and Korean characters in place of the Thai script. Although there are plenty of restaurants in Flushing, we chose to eat in the food court on the bottom floor of the New World Mall. I know to some, the idea of eating dinner in a mall food court may not seem like the best culinary experience in the best foodie city in America, but at the end of the tour, we both agreed that our side trip to Queens may have been the highlight of the day. One of my best dining memories in Asia was eating at the hawker stalls in Singapore. This was very similar in terms of the food options. It took around five minutes to find a seat. We settled on Tea Twitter, which also has a stand at the Queens International Night Market. We had both eaten way too much to fit a full meal, so I got the salt & pepper chicken, she got the basil chicken and we shared. This cost us a total of just over $10. We almost finished our two plates and then took the short walk back to the train station.

Hanging sneakers from Platform of Flushing Main Street LIRR station
shot of hanging sneakers from platform of Flushing Main Street LIRR station
IMG_5359
shot from the top of the steps at the (Penn Station bound) Flushing-Main Street LIRR station

IMG_5355

IMG_5357
graffiti at the bottom of the steps up to the (Penn Station bound) platform at the LIRR Flushing-Main Street station

Since my friend had the chance to ride the subway both underground (in Manhattan) and elevated (in Queens), I decided it would be nice for her to ride a nicer (regional) train. We took the Long Island Railroad back to Penn Station. The trains run between Flushing and Penn Station every 30 minutes on weekends and take less than 20 minutes. The train cars are nicer and there are only two stops between the two. We had a few minutes to wait on the platform, which gave me the chance to take some nice photos. Once inside the train, we were talking so much about what a great day it was, that before we knew it, we were at Penn Station. Taking this route back to Manhattan allowed my friend to see two NYC icons that she would not have seen otherwise: Penn Station and the Empire State Building (lit up at night). After taking a few more pictures, we boarded the (very crowded) PATH train back to Newport.

Empire State Building 9-6-2015

In total, we visited 3 pizzerias, 5 cafes (4 for macarons, 1 for Belgian wafels), an Italian Ice stand and an Asian food court. That’s more than 10 places where at least one of us ate something. The funny thing was that we ate small portions at each place and neither of us felt sick, stuffed or whatever you may call it. We felt satisfied with both the sights we saw and the food we ate.

This time, I’m not in charge!

I’m usually the one making all the plans and this weekend was the total opposite. I was following someone else’s plan. It was not better or worse, just totally different. Like Indian restaurants, I have a nice time when someone takes me, but I would not likely go for Dim Sum by myself.

Earlier this month, I was invited to go to NYC on an overnight trip for a friend’s birthday. I’m used to being in charge, but this time, we followed her itinerary. We rode from the Sand Casino in Bethlehem, PA to Chinatown, Manhattan in a limo and I only knew my friend and her employee. The ride went extremely quick and before I knew it, we were passing the Newport Mall, where I normally park my car and get the PATH train into Manhattan. I hadn’t driven under the Holland Tunnel in years and the last couple times I did, I could have gotten through the tunnel faster on foot. This time was different. Before too long, we were at the Golden Unicorn Restaurant in Chinatown. 
 
 
All I knew about Dim Sum was that it was Chinese snacks/appetizers. Although I skipped the chicken feet, pork dishes and anything spicy, I really enjoyed it. I was enjoying not having to come up with a plan. I was VERY full by the time we got the bill. I was expecting my friend to ask me for $40 or $50, but she said “$14 please” and at first I thought it was a joke. We were in probably the most expensive city in America and I had a pretty amazing lunch for $14! This trip was off to a good start.
 
Since my friend runs bus trips into Chinatown from Bethlehem, PA a couple times every year, she knows the area. We went on a bit of a walking tour and she did some shopping. Hey, this is what I do when I’m showing people around………..”hey I need to go get some of this, some of that!”
 
 
Since none of us could eat anymore, everyone wanted to shop. I couldn’t eat anymore, so with my hour of free time, I walked to the Lower East Side and got some macarons from Bisous Ciao. One box for me, one for my friend’s birthday. If I had to choose 1 favorite macaron, it’s the salted caramel from Bisous Ciao.
 
My next destination was the East Village, which is probably my favorite neighborhood since my cousin in law gave me a walking tour last year. Macaron Parlour was my destination. I got a box for me and a box for the birthday girl (lady).
 
I had to walk quickly back to Little Italy, where everyone had to meet the limo to take us up to Harlem. There were a total of 8 people in the limo and I was the only one familiar with Harlem. My friend wanted to have dinner at a “soul food” restaurant and her friend suggested Amy Ruth’s
 
Although it was not my birthday and the only thing anyone wanted my help with was the subway, I insisted that if they are going to visit Harlem, they have to at least see one historical site. Nobody disagreed and we ended up spending a couple hours at the Apollo Theater.
 
Michael Kimmel was there signing books and I ended up leaving with a signed copy of Angry White Men. The Women of the World Festival was also wrapping up there and we watched Michelle Williams speak about depression. It was a very moving speech from someone I knew very little about.
 
After dinner at Amy Ruth’s, we took the 2 train to Penn Station and walked to our hotels in Chelsea.
 
The next morning, my friends wanted to go to Bleecker Street. I made different plans to meet my cousin at Norma’s inside the Le Parker Meriden hotel. I never heard of this place, but my cousin (who I rarely see, but appreciates some of the same things I do) lives nearby and wanted to meet there. 
 
I had some TIME TO KILL (that’s a Deep Purple song) before meeting my cousin and I had not been to Astoria in a while. I boarded the N train and took it out to 30 Av. I picked up some of my favorite seafood salad at Titan Foods and then got some baklava at Artopolis bakery. With the little bit of extra time I have, I walked up to Ditmars Blvd and made a left towards Astoria Park. After walking around a bit and taking some pictures, I needed to get the train back to Manhattan. Feeling too tired to walk to the Astoria-Ditmars stop, I got on the Q69 bus.

 

 

 
After brunch with my cousin, I met up with my friends at Port Authority. Although it was not my birthday, my friend got me a box of Royce Chocolates, while they were on Bleecker Street. We took a bus back to the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, PA. As I was explaining to my cousin over a $27 crepe at  Norma’s, I’m usually the one making all the plans and this weekend was the total opposite. With the exception of my trips to the East Village and Astoria, I was following someone else’s plan. It was not better or worse, just totally different. Like Indian restaurants, I have a nice time when someone takes me, but I would not likely go for Dim Sum by myself.