This final entry about New York comes from 32,000 feet above Ohio. I have completed my sojourn to New York City, and I am sad to leave it behind. Each forward moving nautical mile brings me that much further away from my strolls in Central Park, the many walks through Chinatowns, the searches for new bakeries and good eats. And as I am flying over Ohio, I can’t help but reminisce. Nostalgia kicks in pretty strong at 32,000 feet in the air.
Havana Central Homepage
In the mood for paella and despite being highly recommended by Roity, I have my reservations about this eatery just off Broadway and 16th Street. We phoned in our order, and 25 minutes later walked down to pick-up our food. And though not starving, I was still irritated that I had to wait an additional 25 minutes before our food was ready. So we sat at one of the empty tables and observed the other guests as they devoured huge plates of steaming paella, and nibbled on maduros (fried sweet plantains) that we had yet to receive. The place had a modern Cuban air about it, I suppose. The indoor palm trees, the dim lighting, the wicker/wood-esque furniture was reminiscent of Hemingway on his island paradise. The lovely ambiance did nothing to assuage my irritation.
When we did get our food, we promptly walked home and tore open the contents and began consumption immediately. My paella had grilled (more like burned) vegetables and chorizo mixed in a fluffy and beautifully yellow bed of rice. Taste-wise, decent. The rice was well cooked and just how I wanted my paella to be – fragrant, flavorful, aesthetically pleasing, and just the right amount of saffron. The vegetables were somewhat cancerous, but being hungry, I ate the burned bell peppers and onions anyway. Is this what I waited 50 minutes for?!?! And the slices of chorizo did not contribute much to the dish, when really – it should have been the star. Paella isn’t paella without the chorizo. It seemed that it was merely an add-in and not an essential component to the dish. Ah well, it sated my craving, but I was not completely satisfied.
In addition, Roity and I shared the empanada sampler and maduros – neither of which were spectacular. I much prefer Sol Food for my plantains and paella. Much better quality and infinitely better taste.
One of the numerous chains you see on the East Coast (that is also slowly infiltrating the West Coast) is Cosi – a great sandwich/soup/deli place. I swore that I would eat a bagel in NYC, and I had mine at Cosi for breakfast. My square sesame bagel was the ripped in half and smashed on top of eggs, bacon, cheese and a slice of ham, then toasted until the cheese melted. Not bad. My only concern was that it was all of 600+ calories, and that was just for breakfast!!! As much as New York deserves commendation for its law requiring all food chains to publicly display the calorie count for their foods, it is such a turn off! For a whole 10 minutes, I felt horrible that I had already consumed almost half of my caloric intake for the day (I try to stay at around 1400).
For those of who interested in seeing a Broadway musical while you are in town, I highly suggest NOT buying your ticket online. Instead, hop on over to the Times Square ticket stand located under the red stairs between 7th Avenue and Broadway on 45-46th Street. Tickets are 40-70% off face value if you purchase last minute – what a deal! I ended up seeing Phantom of the Opera, and it was fabulous! Mezzanine tickets for a mere $60, sweet deal or what?
Junior’s Most Fabulous Cheesecake
And since you’re in New York, you must try New York Cheesecake. And where better than the highly acclaimed Junior’s? Located just next to the Majestic Theater on 44th Street, Junior’s has pretty amazing cheesecake. Now, I would not call myself a cheesecake connoisseur and granted I did not try cheesecake anywhere else, I still think Junior’s might have to be one of the top cheesecakeries. It was highly rated by the New York Magazine (guilty – I read it religiously). Creamy and not too sweet, with a nice dense and cakey crust, the top is gently browned, the contrasting fruit swirl was a great complement to the cream cheese filling. They have a restaurant, but if you only want cheesecake, they have a take-out bar for desserts and sandwiches. The portions are quite generous, and sadly, I actually did finish a whole slice of cheesecake in one sitting. I was sick to my stomach later, but you only live once, and why not die happy?
To walk off the huge cake, my friend Corina and I wandered the Avenue of Americas and 5th Avenue, peering into the dark shops of Versace and Cartier, admiring the window displays at Henri Bendel and Bergdorf Goodman. We walked so far uptown that we ended up right in front of The Plaza Hotel on the southeastern edge of Central Park. We were immediately drawn by 2 things – the levitating Apple sign and the adjacent FAO Schwartz. The latter being closed, we spent a good amount of time at the Apple Store to warm our extremities before heading off into the cold again. It was our last night afterall, and it was best to live large – so on our way back to the Millenia Broadway Hotel, we made our way to the Rockefeller Center. Inside the building, a beautiful Swarovski crystal chandelier type of thing greeted visitors. Pretty cool.
A scant few hours before my flight out of NYC, I quickly decided it was time I met Lady Liberty and Emma Lazarus – after all, they explain why I am in America today, and not in some village in rural Viet Nam. Shake Shack To top off my last hours, I ran to the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park to pick up a few burgers for my lovely hostess, Roity. And I was not disappointed. My brief walk from Union Square to Madison Square was a ‘walk-in-the-park,’ and I munched on the crispy golden amber fries on the way home. The Shack Burger is a basic cheeseburger with the typical fixings – except that the beef patty was deliciously moist, and the Shack sauce was amazing! Pure delight! You must stop by if you happen to be in the area.
So farewell New York. I really regret not having met up with several people (sorry PS), and I really regret not having more time to explore the other boroughs. But ta-ta for now, it was a splendid trip, and I’m sad to leave.