Sunday, August 22, 2010

Z = Zoo

I guess I've been putting off posting this one, the very last one. Z = zoo was completed on time but my reluctance to let go of 26 Weeks stopped me from writing up my final entry. Sounds silly I know, I've always been a little sentimental, it's just a little sad to know I've come to the end of the journey and what a journey it's been. Not only around this unbelievably amazing City I call home but also in proving to myself that I could actually do it. Each and every week. Hangovers, exhaustion, snow or rain couldn't stop the 26 Weeks mission and I would do it all over again.

So the final installment is Zoo, the Bronx Zoo in fact. We'd made it to every borough in NYC apart from the Bronx so it was fitting that this last one would round off our 360 tour. On a scorching hot day we made the journey all the way up and into the Zoo. It's a great zoo as far as zoos go, if I'd rented a kid for a day it would probably have been even better but as far as I know rent-a-kid doesn't exist yet in the City where you pretty much can get anything your heart desires and then some. Afterwards we walked over to Arthur Avenue, the supposed real "Little Italy" of New York. It's a small street but authentic, some mafioso types sitting around eating big bowls of spaghetti, great bread, meats and cheese shops. We stopped for a little bruschetta and raised a cold glass to 26 Weeks of pure adventure because that's really the only way to describe it.....a bloody brilliant adventure.

I hope you enjoyed reading it and I hope you were inspired to try out one or all of the letters yourself. Most of all thanks for all the support, feedback and tuning in each week.

Lastly, to Simon - my partner in crime, I couldn't have done it without you. You're my inspiration.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Y = Yelo

Napping is rare in the City that never sleeps but in New York where you can pay for anything your heart desires, it was no surprise to find out that you can pay to take a nap in Midtown (office workers central). Enabling you to continue burning yourself out working and playing in this ridiculously amazing place.

Yelo is a spa on West 57th Street that features five YeloCabs, special coccoon shaped pods that you can book for 15, 20 or 25 minute sessions to literally just take a nap. Yelo extolls the virtues napping has on your health and wellness and on a Friday evening after a busy week we thought what could be better than trying it out.

It's cheap as chips, only $15 for a 20 minute nap. Yes I know, we could just go home and lay down in bed for 20 minutes for free but I'm suckered into the idea of a womb-like experience to lull my tired mind into a calm blissful state ready for a fun, action-packed, New York weekend. You get to choose your music - I chose Zen, Si chose Medieval chants?! - and your aromatherapy scent - I chose Detox, Si chose Refresh - then you're taken into the YeloCab and you climb on to the YeloChair. It's a big wide squidgy chair that you lay down on, the nice lady covers you in the softest blanket I've ever felt and wraps your bare feet in a warmed towel, she then presses a button and you move backwards so you're laying flat but your legs are raised and pulled towards your chest, this is intended to help slow your heart rate. She leaves and the lights slowly go down until it's totally black.

It's incredibly calming and you can feel the stress leave your body as you do lots of deep sighing and yawning. I wish I could've dropped off but I was quite pumped up with the Friday feeling and thinking about what restaurant we should head to and whether I fancied a glass of white or red. I tried to focus on sleep knowing I only had 20 minutes to feel the benefits of my Yelo Nap but it didn't come, especially as I'd now moved on to the dreaded "lists" mapping out what I needed to sort out over the next few days on mental post-it notes. However, when the lights slowly starting to come on I did feel chilled and like I'd had a moment away from it all to relax and just get away. Si came out totally loving the experience, he'd been on about 10 flights in the last 3 weeks so he really napped, out straight away. Would I recommend it - yep! Definitely go if you're feeling stressed out or if you're jetlagged, you know that 3pm mad-cow syndrome that you get after catching the red-eye? Well this is definitely the solution, don't fight it just Yelo Nap it. $15 well spent!

Only in New York!

X = X.O

X was never going to be easy. Of course, the oh-so helpful suggestions were of course X-rated but kiss and tell is just not my style. So, we went to X.O a small, crazy, little bit dirty, restaurant in the heart of Chinatown with the idea to try Xtreme and Xtraordinary foods, and that we did.

Walking in it's chaotic, noisy and full of locals, a good sign. We grabbed a small table and perused the gigantic menu of choices, there was of course all the yummy usual things I'd liked to have ordered like boring old spring rolls and safe chicken satay but that wasn't the name of the game. So, we ordered the house speciality - snails - followed by jellyfish and white weird dough things I can't remember the name of as they literally expanded to huge thick vile tasting tennis balls in my mouth, so bad I've blocked them from my mind, and a little weird beef dish on the side. 

The snails were obscenely bad, teeny tiny ones that you had to pick out with a toothpick, they were hot, greasy, garlicky and not good, unfortunately our hosts were very generous and served us up a huge bowl of maybe 200 of the little critters with a huge excited grin on their faces. They proceeded to watch us eat them so eat them we had to, thank-you Si for once again coming to my aid and polisihing off most of them. You are a true prince.

Next up - jellyfish - a huge quivering plate full, not cooked, not really anything, just sliced up and coated in some sort of ginger type spice, it was cold, slimy and the texture was like old tyres. It took an incredibly long time to eat, you couldn't really chew it too much, the best thing to do was to just swallow it down with a swift glug of beer straight after. The beef wasn't too bad if you ignored the weird colors and tried not to imagine that it was old meat that had been festering away waiting for someone to order it.

After consuming as much as physically possible we decided X stood for swift X-it. We casually asked for our leftover food "to go" so we didn't appear rude to be leaving half of it, especially the jellyfish  and promptly left depositing said leftovers in a bin a few blocks away and heading to the nearest bar for a nice, safe and Xcellent glass of Rioja.

Chinatown in New York doesn't feel fake, it feels like you've been transported to China, the language, the smells, the food and the bustling streets are Xciting and well worth a visit, just avoid nasty sea creatures at all costs.

Friday, July 23, 2010

W = Williamsburg Walking Graffiti Tour

We headed out on a hot Saturday to tour the tons of amazing Graffiti in Williamsburg. We printed out this very helpful little guide and took ourselves around the neighbourhood to see some pretty impressive work. Quite a few I'd seen before while out and about in Williamsburg and on various websites, facebook posts etc but there were a lot I hadn't seen before, there were the very detailed ones and then the more mural old-school type affair on abandoned warehouse buildings.

On a Saturday afternoon, it's a fun thing to do, you get to mooch around all of Williamsburg and there's so many cool little bars and restaurants to pop into along the way that you can really make a day of it and for me this New York Walking Tour covered it all, well the things I"m interested in anyway - fun stuff to look at, food and booze!
This is my fave

Thursday, July 15, 2010

V = Venezuelan

A solo mission this time to Caracas in the East Village for a taste of Venezuelan yumminess.

After living close by for years I'd never been and boy was I missing out.

Yum yummadee yum is all I can say.

I sat up at the bar, ordered a little Argentinian Los Alamos Chardonnay and the ceviche special to start. Ridiculously good, fresh light and just the right amount of lime juice and cilantro to get the tastebuds going. Ceviche in my mind is as good as a detox, it gives you the same cleansing, healthy, I'm virtuous feeling. Well that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Next up.....Arepas! Caracas makes theirs from scratch daily, they're crispy on the outside and soft and spongy in the middle and filled with pretty much anything. Sort of like a smaller, heavier, doughier, pita. I went for one stuffed with shredded chicken, onions, guacamole, spicy white cheese and jalapenos. You have to pick it up like a sandwich and stuff it into your mouth, it drips on your hands and oozes around your mouth, it's not pretty but who cares it's so damn tasty (unless you're on a first date).

All this for about $20.

There's a hundred or so other Arepas and dishes on the menu but I was full to the brim so many visits are required. What a hardship.

There's a Caracas Arepa Bar in Williamsburg now too that also has Roneria, a special rum bar within, it's been added to the to do list.

Not as good as the real taste of Venezuela but good enough.

Tip: don't go on the weekends unless you like to wait in line for over an hour.

Only 4 more letters to go!

U = University

We were going back to University and this time for my least favourite subject - Science. Why you may ask, well for the week of "U" it also happened to be the World Science Festival at the famous New York University so it seemed too fitting not to give it a whirl.

NYU is sprawled across much of downtown Manhattan with the main artillery in Washington Square Park. This is where our Friday night lecture on "Mind over Matter: the Future of Thinking" was to be held.

After downing a quick bowl of rigatoni al ragu and bottle of chianti at Frankies on 2nd Avenue we were ready to go back to Uni days. However Uni days this was most definitely not. Everyone was a little older and a little more serious (well that's putting it lightly).

We sat up in the back of the gallery (in case we wanted to do a runner) and listened to interesting speakers, including one dude who basically was about 100 brains in one, Professor John Donoghue the founding chairman of the Department of Neuroscience at Brown and currently the director of the Brown Institute for Brain Science. He showed us his new toy - a robot that reads your thoughts and then acts them out - scary but incredible. He believes, in our generation, we'll see these robots become part of our everyday lives.

After about 45 minutes the old droopy lids in a lecture started to come back, now this was more like Uni days. We listened to a little more of the (sort of going over my head a bit now) lecture and then decided maybe we didn't need to stay right until the end, especially as we were the only ones not taking notes, clearly we were just spectators in this crazy science world.

NYU is really a very impressive University, amazing facilities. If you ever get the chance to visit it or attend an event there I'd recommend it.

Next up: V = Venezualan

Friday, June 25, 2010

T = Tenth

Eek! I'm a little late posting this, the activity was done in time sequence but I have to confess a couple of summer trips away delayed my write up, woops. Therefore I'm posting twice in one week - U to follow shortly.

Nothing is more fabulous in life than moving to a new area and
realising you're steps away from a relatively unknown, culinary gem.
Tenth Avenue has a surprising little stretch from approx 18th st -
26th st with great restaurants that are blissfully mega crowd free,
especially during the work week, even though it's steps from the uber
popular Meatpacking District.

So we decided to try all the restaurants in what became our very
own version of Restaurant Week....Tasting Tenth Week. My tummy loved
it. My skinny jeans, not so much.

We started at Cookshop, now our regular haunt purely down to the
Butchers Block, what can I say it's hands down the best in the City. A
generous board of chicken liver mousse, course duck and pork pate,
duck rillette, falling apart melt in the mouth ham, pork belly and
accroutements so fabulous that you don't know where to begin. Served
up with pop in the mouth cornichons and hot crusty garlic oil bread.
Heaven. Washed down with a good Malbec life feels pretty good. We were
in tasting mode so we ordered the cheese board too, excellent
selection, clearly carefully chosen and contrasting perfectly. Served
with walnut and raisin bread and the now obligatory nuts, figs and
honey, perfection. If you're in the mood to sit back, watch the world
go by and pick on a treasure trove of tasty morsels then Cookshop is
your place.

Day 2 took us to Tia Pol. Basically the best and most authentic real
Catalan tapas in the City in my humble opinion. If you go, wait for a
table at the little bar as you come in so you get the evening light
and warm air and can really pretend to be living the good life in the
Penedes, far away from the dirty New York street you're really perched
on. To really go for it order a bottle of crisp, light white from
their excellent Penedes region selection. Small little servings come
out quickly, the grilled bite-size, hot, green peppers tossed in olive
oil and sea salt were delish, the crispy white fish had the perfect
texture, light and tasty and the chopped anchovy toasts were fresh and
just a little spicy. The list could go on. Go for yourself and skip
lunch so you have room to really have fun with the menu.

The next night we were off to Trestle on Tenth, the promise of a secluded
courtyard garden sounded perfection on a perfect day in the 80s with
zero humidity. Now, it does have a lot going for it.... the garden's
gorgeous, the food's pretty good, prices are ok... but the service is
terrible. In a City like New York where your expectations of service
are raised to an almost obscene, spoilt brat level, that just won't
do. Trestle not worthy of Tenth perhaps?

Red Cat was next up. What can I say this just scores a ten everytime
in my book. Service - impeccable. Decor and crowd - stylish. Wine list
- ridiculously good. Food - overwhelmingly perfect. The asparagus and
pecorino risotto is worth going for alone. Love love love this place.

Cheap and cheerful was the name of the game for our last Tasting on
Tenth meal out (unfortunately our bank balance over the course of this
delicious week was going in the opposite direction of my waistline) so
what better way to end our tasting spree than with a carafe of
Montpulciano and a crispy, light, toppings laden real pizza at Don
Giovanni, served straight out of the wood burning oven on to your
table in the metal tray it went in in. $80 for a caprese salad,
grilled mushrooms in balsamic, two pizzas, a carafe of wine and a
Peroni or two - a slice of the good life at half the price.

After we finished our week we discovered Bottino. That tasting is to
come, joiners are welcome!

The other heavenly thing to note about dining on Tenth Ave is 99% of
the places have outside space and on a hot sticky night you're close
enough to feel the welcome breeze from the Hudson River. It makes
dessert and a second bottle of wine simply irresistable.

What can i say, Tenth is almost so good I was tempted to keep it a
secret all to myself but caring is sharing blah blah blah. So go,
enjoy. Just don't tell too many others.