April 6, 2014

Love you forever

Love locks—if you've ever walked down Brooklyn Bridge, you might have noticed clusters of them hanging off the structure here and there. And if you've strolled past Pont des Arts and Pont de l'Archevêché in Paris, you might've missed the actual bridges and just seen the city's entire supply of padlocks hanging above the Seine. Some people despise them, some have made their love of them plainly known ... me, I'm fascinated by them. When I see love locks, I get wrapped up in imagining what could be going on in the minds of the people who've locked them up and thrown away the key. I think they're a manifestation of how we all grapple with the fleeting nature of our lives and our overwhelming desire for some sort of permanence. That desire becomes amplified when we're in love. Love is such a wonderful and beautiful thing to feel—sometimes, frighteningly so, because we know that it will have to come to an end at some point ... whether it's because feelings have changed or, in the best case scenario we can hope for, because we've lived our lives to the fullest.

Or maybe it's just fun to lock stuff up and throw away the key. What do I know?

March 30, 2014

From Paris, with love

The first time I visited Paris in 2003, I was a young, hostel-hopping intern living in Germany on a microscopic paycheck. It still makes me smile to think about that trip: us friends carousing on the steps of Sacre Coeur with a bottle of German sekt; making a few extra bucks from Chinese tourists desperate to use our Louis Vuitton "purchase quota"; missing our hostel curfew and sleeping over at a flat full of Danish students where cheap champagne was so abundant we could theoretically brush our teeth with it; and enjoying the free dusk til dawn art festival Nuit Blanche, which was a dream for a euro-crunching backpacker. It was a fun moment in time so characteristic of carefree youth that I will always cherish.

My second visit to Paris over 10 years later felt like a lifetime apart from that trip—in a wonderful way. This time, I experienced the Paris of movies—a city seemingly built for leisurely sipping café crèmes under the spring sun, intimate wine-soaked dinners, and romantic walks through winding cobblestone streets.

Enjoying Paris at a relaxed pace and with a loose agenda was delightful. We skipped the museum lines and walked through the city as much as we could, taking in all the beautiful sights, browsing vintage books by the Seine, peeking into lovely shops in Le Marais, breaking for coffees and cocktails, and treating ourselves to the most delicious Parisian fare. We had some wonderful dinners, thanks to friends with great taste: a classic entrecôte at Café des Musées, mind-blowingly delicious poultry at Le Coq Rico, and an unforgettable six-course dégustation at Pierre Sang at Oberkampf. Throw in nights of stumbling into random neighborhood bars and a naughty show at the Crazy Horse, and there wasn't much more I could want.

We had such a wonderful time that it makes it that much harder to be back to reality in New York. But these memories of Paris make me happy and hopeful that, just as that first trip was the opening salvo of an adventure-filled part of my life, this one could just be a taste of more lovely things to come in this new stage.

March 2, 2014

Eating my Feelings

How does one get through over a dozen snowstorms in one winter? Indulging in plenty of heartwarming, delicious food is one way to go. One thing that sets winter above the summer is that it is just so damn good to eat through it. Call it nature encouraging you to pack on a little extra padding for warmth or call it eating your feelings—it just works.

Tops on my favorite winter comford food are a piping hot bowl of ramen and a generous serving of steak. Both taste even better as rewards for a day of hard work. This bowl of Ippudo Akamaru Modern ramen was my pre-game for a long afternoon of studying, while that plate of l'entrecote at Le Relais de Venise was a wonderful treat in the middle of a busy workday.
How lovely is it to sit with a freshly baked pastry and a beautiful cup of coffee on a chilly winter day? Both just seem so much more enjoyable with a side of Polar Vortex. This monkey bread from Du Jour Bakery in Park Slope made me all warm and fuzzy inside, while that pretty little macchiato from Pennylane gave me wings.
New York brunches are good any time of the year, but during winter, I feel like I have carte blanche to go for the hearty stuff. Exhibit A: Du Jour's corned beef hash with fingerling potatoes and a poached egg. Exhibit B: The Dutch's shrimp and kimchi fried rice with two eggs and grilled pork belly. Oh my.
Also great in freezing temps: food with a kick! Khe-Yo, a Laosian spot in Tribeca, has got me under its spicy, coconut rice dappled spell. The unctuous bone marrow topped with steak tartare, fresh mint and hefty fried sunchoke chips made me feel all happy and tingly inside (which may or may not just be my veins constricting but pshh). And the chili prawns with that addictive feiry sauce will have you mopping up every last bit off the plate with the ginger scallion toast.
What I like to think of as my reward for putting up with this crazy winter (and perhaps saving a baby unicorn in another life) is discovering I have a jaw-droppingly good Italian joint literally right around the corner. Sociale is a rather new neighbor in Brooklyn Heights but it's become one of my favorite spots. I've had fantastic pasta dishes and a beautiful branzino here, but for a chilly night, I would recommend also cozying up with some of their polenta and that peculiar sounding but super yummy pumpkin dessert, the Catalana di Zucca. This kind of food just warms the heart, I tell ya.
All these good eats bring me to the ultimate silver lining to this long and pesky winter: the bulky and cozy winter layers this weather requires are certainly far more forgiving to indulgence than bikini weather! If we have to put up with yet another 6-12 inches of snow, we have that little bit of consolation, at least ... 

February 23, 2014

Tough Love

There are times when the one you love just tries your patience.

After teasing us with brief spring-like conditions this weekend, another round of Polar Vortex fun is threatening to come our way yet again. Dear old New York has been pummeling us with snowstorms since the year began, and it's getting harder and harder to keep the love going in the face of such abuse. Walking to work in blizzard-like conditions, stepping into ankle-deep slush puddles cleverly disguised as concrete, and playing slip and slide on the sidewalk week after week after week ... it's enough to wear down even the most ardent New York lover. So in my version of couples therapy, I've put together this mini photographic essay to remind us battered lovers of how New York can still make our hearts skip a beat, even as it literally knocks us off our feet.

Yup, New York can still dazzle even when she's being a frigid b*atch. It's been rough but I'm clinging on to the thought that one sweet day we'll wake up, not to snow-covered tree tops, but beautiful spring blooms. For now, we'll put up with the cariño brutal, New York. We know you'll make it up to us.

February 16, 2014

Let's sail away to Annapolis

While New York continues to pummel us with snowballs, I'm digging up untold tales from warmer, sunnier days of summer 2013. For my last trip for the season, some friends and I piled into a car and drove down to picturesque Annapolis, Maryland.

Annapolis is a charming seaport city, with its lovely 18th century buildings and sailboat-ringed marinas, plus scores of strapping young men and women in uniform milling about from the Naval Academy.
Annapolis has been called the Sailing Capital of the US and if you're not one to get seasick, I highly recommend getting your sail on. We took a 2-hour sailing tour on Woodwind II, which took us on a lovely little journey through Cheasapeake Bay, with views of the Naval Academy, some gorgeous waterfront homes, lighthouses, and even a view of a regatta. When they ask for volunteers to hoist the sails, raise your hand stat! It's quite an experience.
If you'd rather relax shoreside, there are plenty of opportunities to do so, too. Put your name down for a table at the popular Cantler's Riverside Inn and if the wait is long, do a little bit of exploration down by Mill Creek.
Don't get too comfortable down there though because the dock is actually out of reach for their handy buzzer system. You do not want to miss your turn because some delicious things await inside! We gorged ourselves on trays full of Maryland crabs, which alone were well-worth the 3-hour drive from New York.

For dessert, head back into the city center, where all-American treats like caramel apples, caramel popcorn, fudge, and ice cream are plentiful.

Before you leave, pay your respects at the World War II memorial. It is solemn and serene, and offers a beautiful view of the Severn River Bridge and the US Naval Academy.

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