Little Boxes

My good lady wife has progressed from her first tentative steps around New York into a crazed shopping animal who has pretty much scoured the four quarters seeking the bargains of the century. I’ve certainly eaten a lot of biscuits as these appear to be purchased to sweeten the daily news of ‘necessary purchases’. A giant cookie for me – a new dress for her, a slice of cheesecake for me – a new top (and a slice of cheesecake) for her. Of course she had to get the top to go with the dress.

The problem is New York is one of the fashion capitals of the world and in this vast marketplace there is something for everyone. Even redheads have their own high fashion store

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It is difficult to control a woman in a city of sparkly lights and ‘closing down’ sales.

Today I managed.

HOW?!

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Good question (terrible joke).

The answer lies with the one thing women love more than clothes and sparkly lights.

Little boxes.

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No not that kind of box!

These…

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and these…

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The first was a takeout box from Mee Noodle Shop http://www.simplemenu.com/menus/meenoodleshop which is fifty metres from my apartment. Sister number two searched high and low for these little boxes and there they were all the time, just around the corner. The feast inside was brilliant.

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No chips of course. But I have come to expect that – I really am becoming classy.

The second box came from http://www.pasticceriarocco.com/the-cafe and this was the tardis of boxes because we obtained one of the biggest cookies in the world from this shop in Greenwich today. One of them here pictured to scale against a large building

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We sat and ate these in the park and watched three pigeons have heart attacks after nibbling on the crumbs.

My devious plan to divert her from clothes using little boxes was working very well and we hit mid-afternoon with no purchases whatsoever. As we passed Bloomingdales I had to think quick. Quick look at me!

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A quick snap and I ducked into http://www.yooglers.com/ with the promise of a little box full of frozen yoghurt.

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That put a smile on her face…

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And after that close shave we were both exhausted and had to head for home. A whole day with no garments purchased whatsoever. I should go down in history as some kind of heroic male role model on that performance. I even managed to get her to have her picture taken with one of those painted naked women on the street

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And to top it all I found Wally…

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That’s him with Mrs. Wally showing him a new pair of shoes she just bought from the shop next door.

He needs some lessons from me I reckon.

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Mr New York!

There has been an awful lot of eating in the last few days and not a lot of blogging. It’s all been down to brother-in-law-number-two who made it patently clear early in his visit – ‘I’m an eater not a blogger!’

So with all the grub-shovelling I have been a little neglectful.

It’s not just the food he has been consuming. He has eaten New York for breakfast – marching here, there and everywhere, up tall buildings, in and out of museums and still managing to sit through three Broadway show lotteries before winning a cheap ticket to Wicked on his last day. The man is New York daft!

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Of course all the sugar he has consumed might account for some of the energy.

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If you think that’s sickly sweet try this…

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All together……awwwww!

Most of the week has been about reunions such as the one depicted above. Wife number one hit the New York side walks with her brother on Friday and on Saturday we all teamed up with cousin-in-law-number-one (I am losing count here) and her hubby for a feast at http://www.bensdeli.net/ where the food is all kosher. I’ve never had false food, so I’m a bit unclear as to what that means.

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Now this deli which is situated quite clearly on 38th Street just off 7th Avenue is not at all difficult to find.

Unless you are looking for it of course.

In such circumstances it wanders off at will and you can spend most of the day scouring the streets looking for it ignoring the fact that some people need to pay a visit to the littlest room while others lost the feelings in their legs somewhere near the Empire State building the previous day.

But we found it thanks to Mr New York himself.

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The determination of the man was a sight to behold and the fact that he lost it in the first place was never mentioned.

The food was another sight to behold…

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This was a small sample of the ‘kosher’ fare on offer at this very pleasant and comfortable restaurant.

I could only manage a massive sandwich having consumed the deep fried contents of these sacks only twenty four hours earlier at http://www.fiveguys.com/

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Of course we also had three quarters of a cow as well slapped between two loafs of bread…

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It’s just as well we have been walking so much.

After Mr New York departed last night some semblance of normality returned to my life. With wife number one back at my side life is much better (still had to do the ironing though…) and a there’s a good bit less stress on my stomach as we did a nice four miles run in the park and some gentle walking to the shops. One of my home made meals for dinner didn’t overwhelm us but we have plenty time.

I must be slipping.

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But I tell you something. I am very glad that things might calm down now there are no more people to get overexcited about the food in this city…

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Discovering New York

This weekend is marked by the arrival of brother-in-law number two who is a big New York fan and fellow food enthusiast. He is also available to take in some culture when pushed so yesterday my scheduled visit to the Met on fifth avenue was graced with his presence.

The Metropolitan Museum is a massive cache of treasure from countries all over the world and even some from America (in a little section at the back behind the cafe).

The collection is so huge it is hardly surprising people look goggle-eyed.

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Youngsters tend to find it a bit boring though.

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Half time snacks for this world exploration came from an old favourite (vendor outside) loaded with every topping possible.

Which of these is the greater work of art?

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I think we all know the answer.

Okay lets move on from world discovery. Or not….

Columbus day in New York is not only a holiday but a day to celebrate discovery. A fitting tribute to the Spanish explorer who was sure the world was round and headed in one direction to get to the other.

What did I discover today?

Firstly that brother-in-law number two insisted upon buying my food (therefore I would be eating a lot). And secondly that heading South with a view to ending up North resulted in us coming across greater treasures than originally intended.

The Columbus Day Parade runs from 47th to 72nd (so I believe) and we did intend to come back to this after a walk down town to rediscover a book shop I came across a couple of days ago. Hunger struck early though and after some frustrating diversions seeking a nice little cafe we found http://www.cafecondesa.com/ in the Village. A light snack for the weary travellers seemed in order.

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A croissant filled with eggs and cheese and ham for moi. While the health conscious brother-in-law insisted upon eating fruit.

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With sizeable wedges of French toast and a bucket of maple syrup to supplement it.

Seeing the grub made some local children freak out in the strangest of ways….

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And animals were so terrified at the sight of our ravenous eating and gnashing teeth as we demolished the feast they leapt from the ground in fear…

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Now I am not sure if all the walking (and gnashing) makes one even hungrier or are we just a couple of pigs but it wasn’t half an hour before we felt the pangs again.

It was time for dessert.

Since the maple syrup and fruit could not be termed ‘sweet’ as it was served with ‘eggy bread’ and we all know that dessert goes down a different way we could justify locating some fine New York cheesecake.

And good lord did we find some fine New York cheese cake at http://www.magnoliabakery.com/

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We had a pecan and caramel topped one and a key lime one. Apparently ‘Sex in the City’ was filmed at this shop which has a nice little park outside to sit in. Useful because you can’t sit inside for all the people queuing for ‘Sex in a Cardboard Box’!

With all the sugar coursing through our veins (and the parade finished long ago) we decided it would be a good idea to head to the park and play ball to work it off and we did spend a few minutes chucking a softball back and fore to work up an appetite for dinner.

An old favourite this time http://www.angelospizzany.com/ and I am not going to repeat how good this place is.

The evening ended with a seat in Times Square people watching before heading back.

We never got to the parade of course, but Columbus never made it to the Indies either and look what he found!

I am so glad he did.

What can’t you get in New York?

Wife number one (and also the current Mrs. Blog) is due to arrive in the Big Apple this week and her advance party (brother-in-law number two) is due in about four hours into JFK.  Today, therefore, was a last chance for me to eat something neither of them will be interested in. Since the current Mrs. Blog was stuffing her face with fish and chips last week after her half marathon in Glasgow I thought it would be appropriate to seek out a good old fashioned fish supper for my own pleasure knowing that this will not be on the menu for some time to come.

‘Fish and Chips! In New York!?’,  you cry.

You get everything in New York.

I also had a mind to look for this ‘cronut’ thingy that everyone is going on about and to grab some of my usual snaps of New York life on the way.

If you allow yourself to be distracted by flea markets at the weekend in New York you can easily find yourself well off your intended route. You head down town and come across a street market and before you know it you are four blocks away with nothing to show for it but an ‘antique’ number plate you paid ten dollars too much for. Or worse, a T-Shirt with a filthy slogan that’s only funny in really bad company.

I didn’t buy either but I couldn’t resist a T-Shirt with a transfer that will disappear after the first wash.

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Mrs. Blog will put a stop to such frivolity next week and replace it with far more useful items such as wooden bowls with native American designs and canvas bags to hide her other bags in.

Now chasing up and down markets is hard on the legs and I wondered if I should get one of the Citibikes which seem good value at $10 a day.

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Basically you pay your money at http://citibikenyc.com/ and pick up a bike at a place like the one above and drop it off somewhere else in the city. Possibly in a place like the one below

I have met someone who cycles in New York regularly and his level of anxiety and peripheral awareness reminded me of ‘Brundlefly’ so I decided to give it a miss

I walked on with the two legs God gave me and eventually came to a shining testament to New York’s colonial history situated right on Greenwich Avenue a few hundred yards from the bottom of 8th Avenue.

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I could instantly tell from the smoking chef outside that this was going to be authentic British fare.

And it was very good indeed.

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They even had Irn Bru (though not diet – a flaw in their understanding of British culture in that we prefer a healthier option drink with our greasy fast food).

It wasn’t all that cheap. Pollock was the cheapest fish but I had haddock and paid $15 with a can of diet coke. Ten quid – not too bad.

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Full to the gunnels with salt and batter, I went with renewed vigour to find that ‘cronut’ thing at http://dominiqueansel.com/cronut-101/

I didn’t get one.

I found the shop and it was singularly unimpressive. No doubt a ‘find’ for the Manhattan jet set who apparently queue from 8 a.m. every morning to sample this lump of deep fried dough for five dollars of their Wall Street earnings. For me I think I will wait for the Greggs substitute because I can think of much better ways of wasting that amount of money.

I could have had dessert at the chip shop for $4

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Didn’t see anyone queueing for one of these. They should try drumming up business like this guy

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I could have had five bargain books from this crazy book shop which has endless corridors of cheap books http://www.strandbooks.com/

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Or I could have parked a car for ten minutes on one of these

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Just so I could find out how they get them up there.

For my five dollars I might even have been enlightened as to why so many dogs found my old chum Fred so attractive

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I kept my money and headed Uptown through Grand Central Station to pick up some burgers for my visitors (see previous blog for details) and some nice American cheese.

Speaking of American cheese, guess who were ahead of me coming onto 8th Avenue.

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You really do get everything in New York.

Conned Beef!

Scotland and New York could do with exchanging more things to each others benefit. I have to say, though, I’m not sure New York would come off best.

Take fire escapes. In New York they have the fire stairs ‘outside’ the building where the fresh air and rescuers are, not inside close to the hot flames, the choking fumes and certain death.

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The fire hydrants are also sticking up out of the pavement easily accessible, not flat and buried under a millimetre of tarmacadam spread by a team of shifty looking itinerants in a white van.

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This one is pictured next to the team who were assembling my lunch sandwich (more on that later)

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Speaking of holes in the ground, any reader of the Beano will know that uncovered drains make superb comic devices but also that our real drains are far too small and our health and safety rules far too strict to ever create such a superb moment of hilarity. Not in New York where the unsuspecting out-of-towner is a prime candidate for dropping into the abyss when passing a store getting a delivery.

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This is one of the safer ones, mostly they don’t bother with the warning cone.

For those of you who have not read the beano…

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It doesn’t get old does it?

And the underground heating system in New York is surely something we could benefit from in the frozen North…

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Mind you most of the people on our streets are steaming every weekend so we may not need this feature.

New Yorkers also maintain a good balance of efficiency and politeness that we seem to lack back home. You don’t go up to a counter in a shop without knowing what you want for fear of being tongue lashed in three different languages but at the same time you will almost certainly be wished ‘a nice day’ once you have mastered the pace of retail transaction. In Scotland the end of a retail transaction is almost certainly ‘NEXT!’ or in Glasgow ‘WHOOZ FURRST!’

Okay – enough of the faff – on to the food…

We have been exchanging food ideas for decades with New York but I have to say we have definitely lost a lot in translation and I think I know why.

New York is awash with restaurants (every fifty yards) and, although they are all busy, it is hugely competitive. Good looking men and women walk the streets trying to kidnap tourists into their restaurants offering everything from a flirty suggestive look to 50% off for those who don’t fall for their more obvious charms. In Scotland you have to travel some distance and then go into the restaurant and hope one of the staff finds a sufficient time slot in their social networking tasks to notice that you are interested in eating. Once you finally find one you don’t feel much like changing your mind and going elsewhere (its more trouble than its worth). You end up eating whatever crap they choose to serve you.

Take the humble toastie…

In Scotland…

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Looks okay?

Here is a toastie shop in New York

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This one is situated on 51st Street between 5th and Madison Avenue close to Jimmy Choo for those of you who wish to keep your women out of the way while you nosh on massive wads of pastrami and corned beef awash with ranch dressing (not our version of corned beef – fat caked cow shavings).

http://www.toastiesnyc.com/

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Bought for $8 (about £5 – the cost of a toastie in local pub?)

Of course just as their health and safety practices leave a lot to be desired so does their attention to pricing (in some areas – such as the Broadway tourist trap – not Toasties to be clear).

I obtained two slices of fairly average pizza from http://rayspizza.com/ on Broadway for my dinner tonight.

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I couldn’t quite fathom the menu so I grabbed this expecting the usual three to four dollars a slice. My change from a twenty was eight dollars. Now either a slice of pizza at Ray’s costs $6 or I was short-changed. This article I read later may be enlightening

http://nypost.com/2013/09/22/secret-mob-history-of-rays-pizza/

It’s not the first time I have felt that my accent suggests a lack of awareness of currency. If the five I got in my change was a ten that would be about right. It’s frustrating when you get caught out like that, especially the embarrassment of feeling that some chancer has got one over on you. It’s down to experience now.

But at the time I had wished the ground would open up and swallow me.

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