7 Reasons to Love (or Hate) New York

New York City in the Snow

Maybe it’s because my rose-colored glasses haven’t quite worn off since I moved to the city in May, but I would just like to have it in print: I love New York. Surprisingly, I’ve realized after talking with my friends who are New York natives, that many of the reasons I love New York are the exact same reasons that they hate it. So let me make my case, one point at a time, letting all of my naive optimism just hang out in the open:

  1. Subway commutes. Yes, the 6 Train at rush hour is just about the closest I’ve ever stood to a hundred other strangers. And while I don’t love being able to smell the hair of the person I’m pushed up against, the subways offer a 30 to 45 minute respite from your to-do list. For the entire time you’re underground, all you have to do is read a book or listen to a podcast, plus paying for a monthly metro card is a heck of a lot cheaper than paying for car insurance.
  2. Everyone is always in a rush. So many songs and books refer to the hustle of New York, and it’s true, sometimes it can feel like everyone in the city is late for something. While the speed of the city can sometimes be overwhelming, especially when someone pushes you aside as they run to catch their bus, the pace of the city is electric: There is always something going on.
  3. You’re never alone. One of my friends who grew up in L.A. but went to school in the city, pointed out to me that when people in L.A. meet up for a drink, everyone is extremely social because they’ve spent their entire day isolated in a car, but when people in New York meet up for a drink, they’re less likely to be social because they’ve spent their entire day surrounded by other people and could use a break. This may be true, but I love that there are so many opportunities in New York for human interaction. Hardly a day goes by where I don’t have a conversation with the man at my local bodega or share a moment with someone on the subway that makes me smile.
  4. It’s expensive. Okay, obviously the expensive part is sort of a drag, but some of the expensive places are really incredible and worth saving up for. And, there are just as many inexpensive as expensive places — there are so many places to eat, drink, and shop in New York that the price range and value run the gamut; you just need to know where to look. (Let’s just not talk about rent…)
  5. The weather. I often say that I couldn’t live somewhere that doesn’t have four seasons — I love the transition from snowy winters to bright and sunny springs. And while New York can take the whole four seasons thing a little too seriously (below-zero shouldn’t be a temperature), the city is so beautiful in the morning after it’s been snowing all night. And, Central Park in the fall — need I say more?
  6. Everyone’s alway busy. Yes, it’s nearly impossible to find time to see my friends with full-time jobs (especially when it feels like most jobs now are 24-hours) but most of my friends in the city are so busy because they are all working so hard towards something. Most of my girlfriends are pursuing their dream careers at publishing companies, in public health, and in advertising since New York is the heart of so many industries. So yes, we’re all busy, but I’d rather be busy pursuing something I love, than have free time and a mediocre job anywhere else.
  7. Everyone loves New York. If you’ve ever been to Times Square, you’ve seen the Instagram-ready tourists with bright eyes, thrilled to be in the city that never sleeps. They’re purchasing Broadway tickets to Chicago, taking the elevator up the Empire State Building, and eating overpriced Italian food on 8th Avenue, ignoring the more subtle, beautiful parts of the city. And while this unanimous love of the city can sometimes be infuriating when I walk through the throngs of tourists in Midtown, sometimes I have to remind myself that I was a tourist not even eight months ago, and that the lights of Times Square can be magical. Loving New York is a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason.

On one of my first days in New York, as a student of the Columbia Publishing Course, one of the lecturers read this passage from E.B. White’s “Here is New York,” which has since become one of my favorite passages about the city:

There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these trembling cities the greatest is the last — the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion.

Things I Read (and Loved) This Week

Books and laptop with flowers

Every week for my job, I read tons of articles about food — many of which deserve to be shared! Here are some of my favorite pieces of food writing from this past week.

  1. David Chang of Momofuku explains the timeline of the massive ramen boom in New York City — and why ramen isn’t what it used to be. [Lucky Peach]
  2. As a former vegan, I appreciated Mark Bittman’s take on the food that’s said to be one of the cruelest animal products. [New York Times]
  3. Bourdain Market is set to be the new Happiest Place on Earth, with an assortment of food stalls hand-picked by Anthony (No surprise, Xi’an Famous Foods is slated to the be first). [Eater]
  4. An incredibly helpful guide to the Geographical Indicators on food (Spoiler: Parmesan knock-offs are rarely from Italy). [Food52]
  5. A story about the mother of all peanut butters — and a man who loved it. [New York Times]

New Years Resolutions

New Years Resolutions

It’s no secret. When it comes down to it, January 1st is a completely arbitrary time to start with a clean slate. But each year provides a natural frame for our accomplishments (and failures). While I try to avoid resolutions that mention weight or money, now that we’re well into 2015, here are my resolutions for this new year.

  1. Make my career my priority and excel at my new job by saying “Yes” to every opportunity
  2. Reach out to new friends in New York at least once a month (even if it means making the trek into Brooklyn)
  3. Schedule Skype dates to catch up with old friends (because getting drinks once a year is far too little)
  4. Experiment with seasonal vegetables to make a new meal at least once a week
  5. Take my boyfriend out to drinks at least once a week – and truly listen to him (sans phone)
  6. Engage in more creative projects (including blogging, new forms of exercise, and exploring NYC)
  7. Learn more (because the most successful people are those who spend 2+ hours a day reading – and no, Buzzfeed doesn’t count)
  8. Use fewer electronics (while deactivating my Facebook may not be in my near future, we could all benefit from looking at people on the subway instead of looking at our Instagram feeds)
  9. Learn the ukulele (I’ve come to terms with the fact that guitar isn’t happening)

Cheers to 2015! (And a special announcement…)

Food52 Desk

Five months ago, I landed a fantastic job at a company with incredible coworkers, but last week I left it. Five reference calls, three interviews, and two editorial tests later, I am now an Assistant Editor at Food52, a food website I fell in love with over a year ago. From now until January 5th, I’ll be tying up loose ends at my previous position, and eagerly planning my start at Food52! While I don’t see this blog changing at all, I’ll be linking back as often as possible with all of the great recipes, columns, and adorable treats I come across at work!

Cheers to 2015!

25 Days of Food

Online Advent CalendarOne of my favorite things about December mornings are the cheap, slightly-plasticy-but-nonetheless-delicious chocolates that I eat every morning from my advent calendar. It invokes the nostalgia of counting down the seconds until Christmas. Because I can’t hand out chocolates to each and every one of you every morning, here is an e-version of an advent calendar, filled with prizes and delicious photos of food!

Check back every day for culinary treats!

 

Giving & Thanking: A Guest’s Last Minute Guide

Giving & Thanking

If you’re anything like me, you’re sitting at home with your family (still in your pajamas) watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, or you’re sitting on your bed listening to your boyfriend play guitar while you wonder what to wear since it just started snowing, and what to get for a last minute host gift. If you’re in the latter category like me, here are some tips to get your Thanksgiving going without a hitch:

Bring the perfect host gift. Resist the temptation to bring wine (unless asked). Many hosts will have already bought all the necessary wine and booze to go with your meal, and by bringing a bottle, you will be throwing an impostor into the mix. If pressed for time (which, let’s face it you probably are), pick up an expensive bottle of Olive Oil or Vinegar. If you have a couple of hours before the feast, try making this centerpiece. It’s gorgeous – and edible!

Get into the holiday spirit. I am usually fairly against watching the television during the holidays – with two exceptions, one of them being the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (the other being It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve). There’s nothing like watching a hydrogen-pumped fake turkey to get you into the mood of eating one. If you’re in New York City this year, catch the balloons uptown where there are fewer tourists – anywhere above 51st Street and Sixth Avenue is usually prime for viewing!

Call your mom. If you aren’t lucky enough to be with your family this year (or consider yourself lucky for dodging that bullet), take time today to give your parents a call. Even if it’s for a quick chat, one phone call can go a long way. On that note, text your friends – they’re basically family too and it never hurts to let them know you’re thinking of them!

Find the perfect outfit. Whether finding inspiration from your closet, or running to JCrew to find something acceptable to wear to Auntie Carol’s, just remember that black is slimming, and leave room for that food baby. And a last coat of nail polish can go a long way in making an outfit look more polished.

Get outside. On the food baby note, getting some exercise on Thanksgiving never hurt. Whether it’s an early morning Turkey Trot, or a long after-dinner stroll, take time to stretch  your legs. Your post-Thanksgiving belly will thank you.

10 Ways to Enjoy Fall as Much as Summer

10 Ways to Enjoy Fall as Much as Summer

Ever since I moved to New York, I’ve been dreading the freezing morning commutes to work, and the fact that I’m going to have to hibernate indoors as soon as the first chill comes (I don’t do well with cold). But while the temperature drops, rather than mourn the end of summer, I’ve found a few ways to make it last as I transition into the fall and winter months.

  1. With all of the pumpkin products out there this season, this is one that I can really go for. (Because who says popsicles are just for summer?)
  2. Keep enjoying morning smoothies – but add an immunity boost so you don’t fall victim to the awful cold going around your office!
  3. Add maple syrup to everything. It’s the honey of fall.
  4. Run in the rain (if not for the excuse to jump in puddles, but for the amazing feeling of warming up afterwards).
  5. Enjoy fall variations on flowers around your home.
  6. Switch out your rootbeer floats for apple cider floats.
  7. Work out outside! Just because it’s cold out doesn’t mean you have to be stuck at the gym.
  8. Enjoy all of your favorite fruits year-round with jams and preserves!
  9. Have a weekend getaway – to a cabin, instead of the beach!
  10. Bring the soirée indoors and turn your summer bottles into a fall favorite.

Go Gymless

Go Gymless Plank In high school, nearly every sport and physical activity I did was outside, from cross country running, to skiing and hiking. As a result, I rarely set foot in a gym, and when I worked out inside, it was usually in a yoga studio. One of the most difficult parts of moving to New York for me has been it’s lack of trails. Everyone I know has a gym membership, and while I will likely have to join one within the next few months when it becomes too cold to run outside, in the meantime, I’m making the best out of the New York great outdoors and creating my own workout plans with the help of the city (and great apps).

Use your environment. Cities are filled with natural “workout machines” like park benches, stairs, ledges, and pull-up bars. With a little creativity, you can get nearly as much from these “machines” as you can from your gym’s. Use the bench to do step-ups, tricep dips, and push-ups with your feet on the bench. Do stair repeats every time you pass a set, and challenge yourself to a sixty second plank every time you pass a ledge or flat spot of ground.

Use apps. One of the other side effects of doing so many sports in high school and college is that I’m very reliant on a coach telling me what to do. While I’m able to create my own workout routine, I prefer someone guiding me through it. I’ve been using the Nike Training Club app for years for strength training, and recently discovered the Yoga Studio app, which provides guided yoga practice when you have an extra fifteen minutes in your day but can’t make it to the studio.

Ditch the treadmill. If you refuse to abandon your BowFlex for park benches, try to get your cardio outdoors. There have been several studies that reveal that running and cycling outside have better benefits than their indoor alternatives. Before heading out, check a map and plan your route – I always find that I run faster and longer when I’m confident in where I’m going. The Nike Running app is also great for checking your progress and giving you mileage and mile time updates.

Taste Talks: Do Restaurant Reviews Matter?

Do Restaurant Reviews Matter Taste Talks

This weekend, I attended Taste Talks, a three-day food festival in Brooklyn “exploring the culinary cutting edge for a food-obsessed generation.” Over the course of this week and next, I’ll be covering the meals and panels I attended under the headline “Taste Talks.”

To the left of Sam Sifton, the Food Editor of The New York Times sit the CEO of the curated review site Taste Savant and an Editor at Tasting Table. Ruggy Joesten of Yelp adjusts himself uncomfortably in his seat. The panel’s moderator draws the audience’s attention to him, “Ruggy, you’ve been quiet for the last five minutes.”

“Product reviews do well for Patagonia jackets but they do less well for three-start restaurants.”

Ruggy laughs. He seems like a likable guy, referencing “bomb-ass” burritos and apologizing for his surfer-dude vocabulary. But here, as the New York Community Director of Yelp, he’s the lone champion of crowd-sourced restaurant reviews in opposition to a panel of professional dining savants. He references the “wisdom of the crowd” and their ability to give a voice to the “small business owner in Des Moines.” (There are a lot of references to this uneducated, unsophisticated “Des Moines” representative throughout the weekend.)

“I use Yelp,” Sam Sifton says, “For products. Product reviews do well for Patagonia jackets but they do less well for three star restaurants.” He continues, “Restaurants are culture, and culture matters. Restaurants should be treated as our city’s artistic cultural pursuits.”

But reviews no longer have the power they used to. Restaurant-owner Carlo Mirachi of Roberta’s says, “A Times review used to have the power to close a restaurant, but that doesn’t really happen anymore because people want to make their own opinions about food.”

Diners today may take the time on an hour-long commute to read a 4,000 word review, but often they need instant gratification and access to what Joesten calls the “Twitterization” of reviews. “Some people just want the quick and dirty.”

“If you’re walking down the streets of New York at 7 pm,” Jocelyn Mangan of OpenTable says, “what’s going to give you decision confidence?” Sifton, who abandoned Yelp completely after a regretful Chinese dinner in Des Moines (again with Des Moines), cites the lack of context and education in the amateur restaurant review. Mirachi agrees, “The amateur food enthusiast who has never travelled to Japan does not have the experience to be able to review a sushi restaurant stateside.”

“If something is mentioned enough times, it becomes true.”

But these amateur reviews carry weight. Last year, Yelp’s revenue grew 72%, and there’s something to be said for the consistency of reviews. “If I see one review that the roast chicken is bad, I’ll probably still try it. If I see two or three reviews of the terrible roast chicken, I’m less likely to try it,” Mirachi says. Yelp has the unique power to combine hundreds of reviews and pull from them highlights that are consistent. “If something is mentioned enough times, it becomes true,” Mangan adds.

And then there’s the mother of all reviews. “Have you even read a Michelin review??” Sam Sifton asks, referencing the review created by two French tire manufacturers over a century ago. “I mean the actual review in the Michelin guide. It’s like it’s written through Google Translate.”

Maybe it’s time that the century-old maidens of reviews release their widow’s grip. Times are changing, creating a place for both the curated and the crowd-sourced. After all, Anthony Bourdain is a huge Yelp fan.

Fried Chicken 101 (and where to find it)

Buttermilk Channel Fried Chicken

Up until this summer, I could count the number of times I’ve had fried chicken on one hand (including the time my mom and I packed K.F.C. into Tupperware and brought it to a potluck). But for the past three months, I grabbed ice-cold beers and sunk my teeth into the best-battered birds North of the Mason-Dixon line.

What I learned:

  1. Classic fried chicken pairs excellently with champagne.
  2. K.F.C. also refers to Korean Fried Chicken, which is often fried twice and covered in garlic or sweet and sour sauces.
  3. A “dry brine,” also known as a salt rub, works along the same lines as a normal brine, but some prefer it because the lack of water means the fats won’t be diluted before cooking. On the other hand, a “wet brine” is usually done with salt water or buttermilk, which can enhance the flavor of the meat and make it more tender.
  4. Fried chicken descendants date back to the Middle Ages and include European fritters and West African chicken fried in palm oil.
  5. New Yorkers: You don’t need to trek out to Flushing to get delicious Korean Fried Chicken – Midtown and K-town have plenty of options.
  6. A twice-fried chicken has crispier skin, but less meat on the bone!
  7. Chicken fried steak refers to a piece of tenderized steak that is breaded and fried in the same style as fried chicken (so it’s about as chicken-y as chicken of the sea).
  8. Fried chicken is often brined in buttermilk because it is acidic and breaks down the meat fibers for a more tender dish.

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