New York, New York
Please pardon the clichéd titled. Have you seen the iconic photo of Marilyn Monroe's billowing white dress (from the movie A Seven Year Itch)? She's standing on a subway grate, and her dress billows with the passing subway train.
New York City has always felt vaguely familiar to me. Like I have seen everything before. And if you watch TV for any length of time, you will know what I am talking about. So what do you do when you hear and read so much about a city that after a point, you start thinking that all of it couldn't possibly be true. There have been times when the amount of material I have read and watched about this city have made me feel like, maybe, it is either the centre of the universe or a phenomenon. There must be a movie about every single thing that's associated with New York. It's possible that every street, nook and cranny has a story to tell. It can be very overwhelming.
So here's what I realised, it's best to see NYC centred around a theme. Planning the trip around the things that you are most passionate about. That way, you'll see something new and most likely, something other tourists would not have seen. You'll have seen the most talked about city your own way and not felt jaded and underwhelmed.
Therefore, predictably, my own agenda for New York was (mostly) food. When people asked me what I'd like to see when I went to NYC, I was torn between telling them Statue of Liberty (well, obviously) when actually I wanted to eat at Bouchon (Thomas Keller's bakery). I also wanted to visit Magnolia (urm, the precursor to the cupcake mania that has gripped the world?), a chocolate factory, a grocery store (no, I don't think anyone believes me even now, but I don't have a store like this in my neighbourhood) an Eastern European bakery, bakery, bakery, bakery, gelateria, bakery, bar, bagels, bakery, deli....My list got so long, that at one point I seriously considered extending my stay in the city for exploring the food (no offence to all the other lovely sights in New York). All I wanted to do was to eat. I had the most amazing itinerary with me, suggested by my New Yorker cousin, and I had highlighted all the bakeries and food joints in it. I went to an area for a food joint, then saw the sights on the way (most people must be doing it the other way round)
I was so obsessed that I figured out the subway system (entered the wrong platform, then left an express train for a slower one, but never mind that now) just so I could go to a farmer's market. I hoarded tissues from certain bakeries, so I could prove later that I had been there. I may have gone too far, no? Anyway, here's my take,
I'll start with Times Square. That's sights, shopping and eating all in one. And if you eat Shrimp, you are covered.
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. - Inspired by Forrest Gump, one of the restaurants in Times Square that has stupendous views. That and funky cocktail glasses.
Or if you can survive on candy, there's that too. Two large candy stores to fulfil all candy store dreams.
Kid in a candy store moment. I am not a kid, but this was most definitely a Candy Store.
New York Cheesecake. No wait. THE CHEESECAKE: From Junior's. I was going miss this bakery, because it was a little ways away, and I hadn't anticipated some distances. But, since I could not leave NYC without the cheesecake, I found their branch at Grand Central Station (That's sight and food, done.) I washed it down with a fresh fruit juice, just so I could justify eating the cheesecake.
Cheesecake! The original New York Style Cheesecake! And I got them in these pretty individual servings too!
There's a chain store that sells only mini cup-cakes. Yes, Really. The shop is like an art gallery, with miniature edible pieces stocked in a showcase at the end of a hall.
Mini Cupcakes - I didn't know these too were a phenomenon in NYC, but they are. They may look decent sized, but they are literally one bite. You have to struggle to get two bites out of these.
I cannot leave out macarons. I forget what the flavours were here, but they were chocolate of some kind. What else would I get from La Maison Du Chocolat?
No better place than a French Chocolate shop eh? This one at the Rockefeller Centre was like being in an upscale jewellery shop. Except everything was chocolate.
I had seen a book cover once. It had a cloud of sugar over milkshake and cookies. If I was so drawn to a book cover, I wondered what the bakery would be like. And what a place. People milling around eating, Chalk board menus, and people who recommended what you should try. It didn't help, that this bakery was 5 minutes away from my hotel Or maybe, it did help.
I wanted to just go there once, to see the place and maybe get some fancy French Pastry. Turns out I went there almost everyday.
Crepes. With Nutella - I staunchly refused to eat the hotel breakfast buffet especially when Balducci's was a block away (for those who don't get that distance reference, it was about a 5 minute walk). The best crepes I have eaten. Smothered in nutella.
When you have this for breakfast, you can take on the world. Or at least the streets of NYC
I have always marvelled Pretzels. They seem so...glamorous, when people eat them on TV. Not so much for me. Maybe they grow on you. I like them flavoured, but plain, they seemed a little bland to me. And I couldn't quite be in New York and not eat pizza. The great New York Pizza, which is different because of the water in the city. Or so they say. I don't have a picture of the pretzels, but you must see this Andy Warhol's painting of Campbell Soup Cans at MoMA. See, I even take pictures of Art Work about food.
A place not on my list was Eatly, but I was so glad to have gone there. A place started by the great Mario Batalli, it's a bakery, coffee shop, gourmet food store, book shop, wine bar, restaurant, pasta place, all in one. Granted, it was crowded (possibly the lunch hour combined with the weekend), but it was a treat.
A variety of Mushrooms and Artichokes at Eatly!
And then came the piece de resistance (some may not completely understand why I call it that), the Union Square Greenmarket. It's the biggest Farmer's market in NYC and open on only a few days of the week. And since I was there on one of the days, I kept an entire morning free to stroll in the market. Spring was delayed, so I saw a lot of potatoes and carrots, but the vibe! You have to be there to feel the vibe.
The Farmer's Market in question - for which I figured out the subway system (with no prior knowledge about it. )