New York is now a Short Hop trip for me, but for two years it used to be my home. After several trips in 1998 and 1999 for work and personal reasons, I decided to move there, and stayed until 2001.
Returning to London required some adjustment and it was hard psychologically to go back to New York. I went back in 2004 and then didn’t visit again until last September. I think I’ve always wanted to move back and relive my carefree single life, so to avoid the temptation, I thought I had to avoid being there. It’s funny how so much emotion can be attached to a place. On my recent trip in September, however, I realised that my perception of what New York symbolises for me has changed. Although I still have incredible memories of my life there, I don’t want to recreate that anymore.
It was really enjoyable to wander around and remember the locations of my various homes, offices and special haunts like Angel’s Share where I used to sip lychee martinis. Catching up with old friends was wonderful too. And it was thrilling to do new things, such as walk along the High Line which didn’t exist back then, and stay in a hotel which I’ve never had to do before.
I used to go to Williamsburg but don’t remember whether there was a flea market back then. The Williamsburg Flea Market is now a hugely popular venue, hundreds of vendors selling antiques, vintage clothing and collectibles, along with the gourmet food event Smorgasburg. I returned to my then favourite travel accessories shop Flight 001 and discovered my new favourite shop, Greenwich Letterpress, a must visit destination for all stationery and Letterpress fans. Be prepared to spend a small fortune there. And I bought the New York-exclusive scent Tubereuse 40 from Le Labo on Elizabeth Street, which reminds me of New York every time I use it.
My favourite New York eating experiences include the mouthwatering bulgogi beef sliders at Korean tapas bar Danji and everything at momofuku noodle bar including the ramen, pork buns and melt in your mouth sticky chicken wings, while the ginger scallion noodles are now a firm favourite at home. At Marea I was impressed by the Astice starter of Nova Scotia lobster, burrata, eggplant al funghetto and basil, which a New York friend always orders, while a food blogger friend insisted I order the delicious crab and Santa Barbara sea urchin spaghetti. The Clinton Street Baking Company is always packed at the weekends but an early weekday morning visit secured us a window table without a wait. Both the wild Maine blueberry pancakes with warm maple butter and the crispy potato pancakes with caramelised apple sauce and cinnamon sour cream were superb.
Other places that highly deserve mentioning include Annisa, Gotham Bar & Grill, The Fat Radish and abc kitchen where we had memorable dinners. The elegant dining room at Annisa is a perfect setting for the chef’s Asian-influenced dishes including her signature starter of seared foie gras with soup dumplings. My whole roasted Maine lobster at Gotham Bar & Grill was stunning, as was the deconstructed Black Forest cake. The celery root pot pie is still talked about when we think of The Fat Radish, while I can still taste the incredible abc kitchen starter of roasted beets with housemade joghurt.
The disasters were Ippudo, The Modern Bar and Otto. I hated Ippudo. Hate is a strong word and I use it sparingly when blogging. The music blaring out at full volume was unnecessary at 11 am. I can understand the need to create an ambience later in the day and particularly at night, but not at 11 am. That alone ruined the experience. The ramen was overrated but I did like the pork buns. The food at the Modern Bar was good but the service so atrocious that I wrote a lengthy complaint on their suggestions card. It must be noted that Paul Giamatti, sitting near but not with me, also looked a little impatient at times. And Otto’s pizzas are overhyped, to say the least.
Rosa Mexicano was revisited for the superb guacamole freshly prepared at the table. I used to love eating there and now I’ve been to all three New York branches. I also went back to Cafe Luxembourg for Sunday brunch. My memory of it was completely different to reality. It was as busy as always but the quality of the food has most certainly gone downhill. However, the potato rosettes that accompanied our brunch have since been recreated at home.
Now that I’ve conquered my funny fear of visiting New York, I’ll be going back much more regularly.
NB: Here is the link to a more recent New York trip in October 2013, Autumn in New York – Top 10 Experiences.
Thanks for reading!
Helen Yuet Ling Pang