Adventures in New York, Part III

This is Part III of a series on my adventures in NYC earlier this month. If you haven’t already done so, read Part I and Part II. Onwards!

Wednesday

Wednesday was a free-for-all day – that is, we had nothing officially booked except a Broadway show in the evening. So, I spent the majority of the day doing what I love best: sightseeing, browsing, and eating delicious food. (Yes, that includes browsing delicious food, as well.) On recommendation of a friend, as well as various internet sources that know me all too well, I decided to work my way to and around Chelsea Market.

It was a wonderland of bougie shops and food stalls, all located inside of a large space. Now that I think about it, it was a bit like a mall, except it didn’t smell like a mixture of Auntie Anne’s pretzels and sub-par pizza, and the walls and flooring were considerably more industrial. Darker. Seeing as the first two thirds of the week was pretty chilly (Wednesday being one of the colder days), this was a good place to spend the morning. I browsed through various clothing stores, book shops, a big spice display, and a shop full of adorable Japanese toys and homegoods. And in true Laura fashion, I bought nothing.

That is, I bought nothing that wasn’t edible. I managed to get to Chelsea Market around 10:30am, thirty minutes before the very tasty Los Tacos No. 1 stall opened, and I was told I needed to get a taco. I’m 100% okay with morning tacos. By the time I wound my way back after browsing a bit, there was already a line 10 deep right at opening in the middle of the week. Worth it? For a simple adobada (marinated pork) taco that I keep thinking about, my only regret is that I only got one. Go get it, if you can.

Other items of note were a fried pork bun at the stall right across from Los Tacos (hot and tasty and crispy), a store selling reusable goods (straws, utensils, feminine products, etc.), and ice cream from Ample Hills (not in Chelsea Market, but walking distance from it) – a Rice Krispie treats-flavored ice cream, because out of all the fancy desserts I love, I have a special place in my heart for butter, marshmallows, and rice cereal mixed together. Also, the ice cream had a brown-butter flavor in it, which elevated it over the stuff we made in my third grade classroom. These adventures are what actually makes being an adult fun: I get to choose what to eat, with nothing but my own body to scream at me if I’ve overdone it. And I didn’t overdo it, so HAH.

Anyway, besides food and browsing shops, I next made my way to the New York Public Library, both to just see the place I’ve seen in movies, and to browse an exhibit they had for J.D. Salinger. No pictures or phones were allowed, which I’m frankly happy for, because I got to just enjoy looking at his letters, pictures, and books without worrying about photography. The best thing I took away from the exhibit was a renewed picture of who Salinger was: since high school, I always had him down as a crotchety man who eschewed technology and Hollywood, based on what one of my teachers told us. After the exhibit, I learned that he was a cinephile, a family man, and a cat-lover. Sure, still crotchety, but probably in the way I aspire to be one day. Now I want to re-read Catcher in the Rye. It’s been quite a while.

After getting a glimpse of the enormous reading room and a few of the smaller rooms, I decided to make my way back to the hotel, as my feet and back screamed for rest – it was, by this time, late afternoon/early evening, and we had a show to get to at 7, so I figured I’d give myself a rest, too.

Flash forward, because napping is boring: husband and I eat what’s offered at the hotel lounge (I believe it was meatball sliders and salad this time), then head to the theatre for some irreverent musical talent in The Book of Mormon. We had listened to the soundtrack ourselves a few weeks before our trip, and I had refreshed my memory a week before as I worked in the kitchen, but it’s always nice to put the songs together with a story. An absolutely ridiculous story, mind you – my face hurt after the show from laughing. The writers knew their Broadway tropes and their subject matter, and executed it fabulously in flamboyant dance numbers and mixing of musical genres. There’s a reason why this show’s been on stage for nearly ten years. If you’re completely turned off by South Park, I’ll say that while the show has the language and some of the (hilarious) crudeness of early seasons, it also has the intelligent satire of later South Park. Go see it if you’re not mortally offended by copious swearing.

We concluded our evening with slices of cheap, delicious NYC pizza from one of the many cheapo stalls (2 slices and a can of soda for $5? Yes, please) and watching hotel cable in the comfort of a king-sized bed. Awwww yiss.

Thursday

Thursday was cooooooooolllllllllddddd. Like, highs in the low 20s, which is not fun for this Southern lady, so I decided to spend the day on an indoor activity. Originally, the plan was between walking around Flushing’s Chinatown or going to a museum, and the weather made that choice easy. To the Metropolitan Museum of Art (AKA The Met)!

In all its glory, the Met!

My sister-in-law warned me that one could easily spend a whole day there, and she was both right and wrong: one could spend several days winding around that behemoth of a museum, which I suppose is why they give you a three-day pass. (I’m a little salty at myself for not knowing this beforehand, or else I would’ve gone earlier in the week and come back. Ah, well.)

I was super stoked to see so many works by both super famous artists (Manet and Monet and Matisse, oh my!), as well as super famous works (Washington Crossing the Delaware, which was a heckin’ huge painting, and I had no idea it took up a whole wall). But my favorites were the Rococo rooms and furniture, the absurdly intricate and decorative works, purely made to show off just how important and rich you were. (They’re also absolutely gorgeous, and much of the decor incorporates robin’s egg blue, a delightful shade.) I learned that the big box canopy beds housed in giant bedrooms were not, in fact, made for sleeping, but for meeting with important people and showing off your wealth some more. Whether or not they used the beds later for, ahem, sleeping, with or without said important people, was not detailed in the plaque.

The one picture I took in the Met. And I want it.

I spent much of the rest of my time perusing Medieval art, as well as art from Asia and ancient times. One of my other favorite moments happened as I walked through an exhibit featuring Middle Eastern art and decor, and its influence on Iberian art and buildings. I felt a sense of calmness, and realized that the marble and stone floors, walls, and water features, as well as intricate wood lattices on windows, reminded me of weeks spent with my family, and in my relatives’ houses and apartments, in the Dominican Republic. No wonder I like the style so much! Unfortunately, stone floors and walls aren’t logical in the frigid mountains. Alas.

I could talk art for ages, but I won’t here. You may be wondering, why didn’t she take more pictures? I’ve never understood why people have to take pictures of art in a museum, especially now, when you can find pictures by doing a simple Google search. Or even opening an encyclopedia, if you still have those lying around. I liked the Rococo, and took a picture. I liked other stuff, and decided not to take pictures. I believe I enjoyed the museum more because, as in the J.D. Salinger exhibit, I didn’t worry about taking the pictures – I simply admired the art. Go see the art for yourself, or look online for much better-quality pictures than my crappy phone camera can take.

Hmm, I’m getting salty here, so let’s move on. In the middle of my visit to the Met, I ate at a hipster Thai restaurant. Decent, but nothing to write much home about. The route I took to the museum avoided taking buses, but included a pretty good walk through Central Park (good as in pretty, but also good and long. Whew). Unfortunately on this day, I didn’t get to spend much time admiring the freezing cold park, as I needed to return to the hotel to freshen up and get ready for our dinner reservation on time.

Long story short, we got to experience the fun of delayed trains and the worry of missing our reservation thanks to them. Spoiler: we made it to the restaurant. Now, let’s talk Dirt Candy.

Firstly, let me preface and not-so-sincerely apologize for the lack of pictures: the lighting in the restaurant was nice and dim for eating, and not so nice and dim for photography. Also, as I said before in an earlier post, phones are gross, and I don’t like using my phone while I eat. (I sanitize my phone before and after taking food pics. Seriously, they’re disgusting.) Thankfully, a lot of what we ate is on their website in picture form, with professional photography. Yay!

So, Dirt Candy. Vegetarian. Upscale. Transcendent. If you think vegetables are “rabbit food” (something tells me you don’t, if you’re reading this blog, but hey, I can’t read your mind), or are boring/tasteless/not as good or fun as meat, this place would blow your mind. If you are of the aforementioned mindset, or claim you “don’t like vegetables,” do yourself a favor and go to a good vegetarian restaurant. Not a place that simply has “vegetarian options,” as those often are boring, bland versions of food without meat. Example: I saw a Greek restaurant list their “vegetarian gyro” as a sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and tzatziki sauce. This, my friends, is not a vegetarian version of a gyro – it is simply a gyro without the meat. Unfortunately, this is all too common in your standard “vegetarian options,” as any vegetarian friend will tell you.

A good vegetarian restaurant includes a danged protein, and actually makes the food taste as good, if not better, than meat. It doesn’t have to be as pricey or upscale as Dirt Candy to be good, mind you.

But Dirt Candy was good.

Here’s what we ate in our nine (yep, count ‘em, nine) courses. I’ll probably mix a few of them up and forget some things, but oh well:

Course One: Seaweed “caviar” on an avocado-creme fraiche base, neatly packed into an adorable tin.

Course Two: Salad Tower. A foot-and-a-half high wood tower dotted with salad greens and smears of savory-sweet dressing. Also, smoked cottage cheese with grapes and something with beets that I didn’t care for, only because I don’t like beets. Also, Squash Consomme. Super savory and warming. I had no idea squash could be so…meaty, for lack of a better term. Also also, Spinach Monkey Bread and garlic butter. Ohhhhh yes.

Course Three: Korean Fried Cauliflower and Shanghai Shoots. Oh. My. Goodness. This was my favorite, because who doesn’t love fried cauliflower in a spicy-sweet sauce? The Shoots were good, too – very tender and sweet baby bok choi-like cabbage with a dipping sauce. Mmm.

Course Four: Fennel “Sausage” Soup. Savory AF. I’m not the biggest fennel fan, but this changed my mind at what fennel – both the seeds and the plant itself – can do.

Course Five (Main): Radicchio “Steak” with Frisee Salad and Chickpea Croutons. A little more bitter than I cared for, but enough savory flavor in the housemade dressing and croutons to combat it. Husband liked this more than I did.

Course Six: Carrot Sliders. Look, I can only handle so much carrot at a time, and this was not it. Giant carrot coins on slider buns. The taste wasn’t bad (for carrots), but that was a no from me. Husband got one and 3/4 sliders for this course. If you like carrots, you’d love these, I’m sure. They did come in adorable little takeout boxes, though.

Course Seven: Spinach and Brassica. I like cabbage a lot, so I was all right with Brassica, a mixture of cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage in a light broth, but I think it could have been more flavorful with roasting rather than boiling/steaming. The pickled cauliflower was excellent, however, and the spinach with dehydrated cheese was very flavorful by contrast.

Course Eight: Beet Yakitori. This was my biggest surprise of the evening. I was not looking forward to putting a strip of roasted beet in my face. Y’all know how I feel about beets. But I played along, as I did with the Carrot Sliders, and roasted my candy-striped beet strip over the cheeky little firebox they gave us until the strip collapsed and charred. The taste was eye-popping, and the chew was like chicken: savory, with no hint of the dirt (what some call “earthy”) taste that beets normally carry. I’d eat about ten more.

Course Nine (Dessert): Cauliflower Cake and Ice Cream, Chocolate Mushroom, Sweet Potato Tarts and Chocolate, Radicchio Jelly. Yep, still vegetables. The cake and ice cream brought out the sweetness of roasted cauliflower that I wanted in Brassica, and never lost the cauliflower flavor, even in cake and ice cream form. The Chocolate Mushroom was mushroom-infused chocolate shaped like a mushroom, melted by hot chocolate. Yesssss. And the rest were on another, smaller tower: tasty little sweet potato tarts, mini complex sweet potato-infused chocolate bars, and a surprisingly tasty and chewy radicchio jelly-bite (think the texture of fruit leather) that reminded me of cranberries rather than bitter greens.

Yes, I was full to bursting by the end, but managed not to have a bad time afterwards, as I like to say. Go check out pictures on Yelp and Dirt Candy, if you want to see some of what we ate.

Afterwards, we decided to have a drink at McSorley’s, an old speakeasy that only allowed women in after the 1970s (haha), where the two choices for beer were “dark” and “light” (in color, not calories, mind you). Very tasty, standard ales, and walls papered with, well, old newspapers, framed photographs of patrons, and old signs to peruse as we sipped. (The place was crowded, but not packed, so we stood and drank.)

Lastly, we played at Barcade, because we’re suckers for old video games combined with bars. Didn’t return to the hotel until well after midnight, like young whippersnappers out on the town.

Next time, I’ll talk comedy clubs, weird museums, and other eats and bites. Until then, eat well and be well!

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