Perfect weather greeted us the day I showed Mshel around Brooklyn. This could've made for a flawless day as well, but when we tried to get up to the One World Observatory on our way to Brooklyn, the line was absolutely insane. We decided we didn't have enough time to wait in line so long, and had to settle for admiring the view of One WTC from below.

We went to see the World Trade Center Memorial Plaza as well. Despite being heavily crowded, there is still a somber quality to the place. The area is also cooled by the massive waterfalls, and is very conducive to reflection.

Our visit was unexpectedly punctuated by an unplanned stop at the 9/11 Memorial Museum Store at Vesey, where it is basically impossible to go without openly weeping or at least getting teary-eyed. They are constantly running stories of 9/11 victims and survivors on a big screen. It's worth a visit if you're in the area. After having paid our respects, we headed over to Brooklyn for Smorgasburg.


East River State Park
90 Kent Ave at N. 7 St.

TimeOut New York describes Brooklyn's Smorgasburg as "a glutton's paradise", Mario Batali describes it as "The single greatest thing I've ever seen gastronomically in New York City", and I agree with both 100%. So it was not surprising to me when Mshel complained about the fact that she'd never been there despite having visited New York quite a few times. "How could you keep me from all that food, Ash?", she whined.

Just kidding. I added that for effect. I'm probably more the type who would say something like that than she is. What can I say? There are too many amazing things to do in New York City! In any case, we finally hit this outdoor food market, which more than lives up to all the hype.

Wading through hundreds of hungry and sweaty New Yorkers, we hit our first stall: Goa Taco. Mostly because we saw THIS.

Slow-roasted pork belly at Goa Taco
The slow-roasted pork belly serves as the protein and crunch in their popular "slow-roasted pork belly paratha taco". If you're not familiar with what a paratha is, it's an Indian flatbread which is a cross between a tortilla and a croissant. It's made by folding ghee or clarified butter into the dough repeatedly, similar to how a croissant is created. And man does it punch up the taste of soft tacos by several notches! The addition of pickled cabbage and chipotle mayo cuts the oil and saltiness in a way that keeps you from getting tired of eating it. On top of all that, they add in some crispy pork rinds, just in case you still didn't think this was heavenly. IT IS.

Slow-roasted pork belly paratha taco
If you're already drooling at this point, I should probably point out that you don't have to go all the way to Brooklyn to try these. Goa Taco has a store in Manhattan.

But WAIT. There's more. We wandered over to the Duck Season stall as well because I'm ALWAYS looking for good duck. And boy did I find it. Duck Season's crispy duck confit is very plain and unassuming. But, to date, it is the best duck I've ever had in my life. As in, this is one of the things I would ask for if I were on death row. The outside is very crispy, but delicate enough that there is barely any resistance as you bite into it and get to the layer of fat. That next layer is out-of-this-world if you're into visible fat, and even if you aren't! It almost dissolves in your mouth with a lightly salty taste, and there was not a single part of it that was rubbery. The inner layer of meat is full of flavor and very tender. They serve it with a choice of sauces, and I chose the classic duck sauce to cut into all that fat.

Despite the fact that there's a LOT of space at this park, most of the tables were taken, so we settled down on the grass to attack our food.

Slow-roasted pork belly paratha taco and crispy duck confit
Crispy duck confit
To end our Smorgasburg pig-out session, we had some ice cream from Blue Hill, an organic ice cream brand from Brooklyn. I thought it was good, but definitely not among the best I've had in NYC (I would suggest Cones and Ample Hills if you're looking for good ice cream.) Nonetheless, this satisfied our dessert cravings, for about a few hours. :P Oh and if you're wondering why there are three cups we were actually with Michael and our friend Kim at the time, as evidenced later in this post!

If you're still skeptical about whether or not it's worth going into Brooklyn for Smorgasburg, you should know that when Mshel's flight got delayed about a day, she specifically asked if we could come back to have more, and so we did! This time we hit the Smorgasburg at Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 5, where there are plenty of picnic tables to choose from. If you're curious what that area looks like, we took plenty of selfies there later that first day (and in this post).

Goa taco, El Gato Nachos, Duck Season crispy duck confit, Duck Season sandwich, and Rockville Market Farm's Vermont maple lemonade

Duck Season's crispy duck confit
On our second Smorgasburg visit we added Duck Season's signature sandwich. It's made with pickled cabbage, XO sauce and chickpea gochu karu hozon spread (both from Momofuku Labs), on a brioche bun. This sandwich was underwhelming I thought, despite the stellar ingredients.

We also tried the nachos from El Gato. To be completely honest I have forgotten what was in this. I do remember it being hella awesome though.

After Smorgasburg we took a bit of time to enjoy East River State Park, with its tiny beach and gorgeous view of the Manhattan skyline.

 And then we walked up to Brooklyn Heights, discussing whether there would be anywhere else in the world we would live in given the opportunity, and I thought to myself that I would be hard-pressed to leave New York City.

Walking through Brooklyn Heights
 We enjoyed views of Pier 5 and the skyline as we walked through the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

We also found one of the most charming private gardens I've ever seen.

And of course, got a view of Tom Fruin's popular stained glass water tower.

Ample Hills Ice Cream

Pier 5, Brooklyn Bridge Park

When we got to Pier 5, we found the Ample Hills ice cream store, where we proceeded to devour more ice cream, and this time, it was phenomenal.

I had Nonna D's Oatmeal Lace (brown sugar cinnamon ice cream with oatmeal lace cookies) and Mshel had something fruity I've forgotten (I wanna say blueberry?). Meanwhile, Michael probably had vanilla, because he's predictable that way, and Kim had a crazy-good coffee ice cream on a pretzel cone that I somehow did not take a photo of. WHAT?! Oh, just go get one yourself ;P.

And then we took ALL THE SELFIES.

That last one was from a selfie stick. I will never be able to master using one. I love my GoPro!

Bellies happy with ice cream, we somehow decided it was time to head over to our dinner place (lol), passing by many of Brooklyn Bridge Park's sporting areas along the way.


Pier 6, Brooklyn Bridge Park
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Exhausted and thirsty from walking around in the heat, we decided we should probably go have drinks somewhere. We passed by a small restaurant called Fornino, and Kim informed us that the pizza there is supposedly good. So, we ended up buying a small pizza on top of some sangria. I was a bit concerned about having pizza about an hour before we were supposed to sit down for dinner, but I totally ate my words when I realized this is probably the only pizza crust I've ever loved in New York. The sangrias were only ok, good enough to quench our thirst.

Pok Pok NY

117 Columbia St
Brooklyn, NY 11231

Americanized Thai food is one of my favorite cuisines to have, so when a seemingly authentic Thai restaurant garnered one Michelin star, I immediately put it on my list of places to try. That was a few years ago, which you'd probably know if you pay attention to New York's list of Michelin-starred restaurants. It took Mshel visiting for me to finally try this place, and I certainly wasn't disappointed.

Michael, Kim, and Mshel were immediately drawn to the whiskey-marinated spare ribs. This was definitely delish and came with two good sauces.

Sii Khrong Muu Yaang (Whiskey-marinated spare ribs)
After that, I was responsible for ordering the rest of the dishes (with everybody's blessing). One of the dishes was the Khao Soi Kai, which is a really mild coconut curry. If I had to pick a dish that underwhelmed me, this was probably it. I really like the curries you'd normally find in an Americanized Thai restaurant (panang, massaman, red and green), but this was too mild for my taste.

Khao Soi Kai (which I believe is also called Chiang Mai curry noodles) - Northern Thai mild curry noodle soup with coconut milk
The sticky rice came in this little woven box, which totally reminded me of how certain provinces in the Philippines serve their rice.
Sticky rice

A "puso" of rice, from the Philippines - rice wrapped and boiled in a triangular casing made of woven coconut leaves, see here:
Next I ordered the Hoi Thawt, supposedly a street vendor specialty in Thailand. I had seen Anthony Bourdain eat things similar to this (things with a lot of different tastes and textures) in one of his shows, so I was excited to try it. I was a huge fan of this, and remember thinking I should try to find a recipe to make at home. I think my friends were a little intimidated by hodgepodge of ingredients though.
Hoi Thawt - Crispy broken crepe with steamed fresh mussels, eggs, garlic, chives, and bean sprouts, served with Sriracha sauce
Next was the Kaeng Hang Leh, sweet pork belly and pork shoulder curry. This was another favorite. I could imagine eating this nonstop with a huge bowl of rice, but since we'd been eating all day, I was only able to sample a few bites.
Kaeng Hang Leh - Northern Thai sweet pork belly and pork shoulder curry with ginger, palm sugar, tamarind. turmeric, Burmese curry powder, and pickled garlic
Last but not the least was Ike's Vietnamese fish sauce wings. Our server had suggested we get these, and boy was she right.They're sweet, salty,  and crispy. Remember when I commented about Jean Georges not being known for punch-you-in-the-face flavors? This dish is the exact opposite of that.

Ike's Vietnamese fish sauce wings - Organic Amish chicken wings marinated in fish sauce and sugar, deep fried, tossed in caramelized fish sauce and garlic, with a Vietnamese side salad
 And of course, we had to have some evidence of the fact that we were actually there, despite being a bit sweaty from all the eating and walking.

Thanks for being the photographer, Michael!

269 Court St
Brooklyn, NY 11231

To end our night, we walked to The Chocolate Room in Cobble Hill, where I crazily tried to convince everyone to get a third batch of ice cream. I think Michael was the only one who did (awww). I ordered a few pieces of chocolate to ration throughout the next week. They have some very interesting combinations like strawberry, lemon, and thyme, or burnt caramel with Hawaiian sea salt, so if you're into unique flavors you should definitely head over there.

Whew! That was a lot of walking, and quite a lot of EATING. This post made me tired and full at the same time. Also, it explains all the pounds I gained over the summer. :P BUT it was all worth it, and trying everything in sight with my bestie for a few days every year is one of the things I truly live for.

Not Bored with Mshel Day 3: Sant Ambroeus, Central Park, Artichoke's Pizza, and Banoffee Truffles

One gorgeous summer weekend in New York City, my bff Mshel came to visit. As per our M.O., we jam-packed our itinerary because we believe the following Mindy Lahiri philosophy: "You have to have an itinerary. That's how you maximize fun time per hour."

We had pastries at Maison Kayser, pizza at Grimaldi's, and a lovely lunch at Jean Georges. We hung out at Bryant park, waded through the tourist crowd to take a selfie at Strawberry Fields in Central Park, took in amazing views of the Manhattan skyline all while catching up on what's going on in our lives. We ended the night with an insane, sweaty, and exhausting hour at a club in Manhattan (after which I decided that going clubbing once a year is quite enough for me).

Maison Kayser & Bryant Park

8 West 40th Street
New York, NY, 10018

We started out by buying pastries for breakfast at Maison Kayser, a chain of bakeries that originated in Paris. Mshel, always the polite gal, told me after we'd already bought a few things that Eric Kayser has a bakery in Manila, but that there seemed to be more of a selection here, at least at its Bryant Park location. Nevertheless, it was a perfect place to grab breakfast that we could enjoy at the park.

Arms laden with boxes of treats and coffee, we headed to Bryant Park across the street.

Bryant Park is one of my favorite places in Manhattan. You get to enjoy being surrounded by trees, but at the same time, be able to see the lovely New York Public Library and the towering buildings of Manhattan beyond them. Not to mention, you can also connect to the Free wifi that some of New York's public parks offer.

I had two of the eclairs. One was pistachio and one was another nut-flavored one, either peanut or hazelnut. Both were really good, but I remember loving the pistachio more. The shell was soft but not soggy, and the filling was flavorful and not overly sweet. Two eclairs was a little too much of course, so I took home half of each.

Mshel had the Sainte HonorĂ©, which is basically a beautifully arranged collection of caramel cream puffs topped with whipped cream. How can you go wrong with this classic?

Strawberry Fields, Central Park

West Side between 71st and 74th Streets.

Strawberry Fields is a living memorial to the world-famous singer, songwriter and peace activist, John Lennon. During his career with the Beatles and in his solo work, Lennon's music gave hope and inspiration for world peace and his memory and mission lives on in Strawberry Fields.

This tranquil section of Central Park was named after one of Lennon's favorite songs, "Strawberry Fields Forever." Recorded in 1966, the song's title comes from an orphanage in Liverpool, England where Lennon used to go to play with the children. His aunt, who raised him, disapproved but he insisted it was, "nothing to get hung about." Hence, the song's famous lyric.
After chatting over breakfast and walking around Bryant Park, we immediately headed up to Strawberry Fields in Central Park.  Considering that this memorial is supposedly marked as a Quiet Zone in Central Park, there was quite a bit of a crowd there. Despite that, and a group of Central Park employees cordoning off part of the area to trim trees, the place still kept some of its serenity thanks to a guitarist nearby crooning Beatles songs and the dappled sunlight streaming through the trees.

On our way to Jean Georges, we realized we had failed to use the flower crowns we'd bought from The Market NYC the day before (something I'd written about on this post), and paused to capture this memory at Central Park.

Jean Georges

Trump International Hotel and Tower
1 Central Park West
New York, NY 10023

Jean Georges is located at Trump International Hotel and Tower, at one corner of the big rotunda of Columbus Circle, from which you can also see Time Warner Center (home to Bouchon Bakery, Per Se, Whole Foods, and a whole lot of high-end shops), and the southwest corner of Central Park. There's a lot going on here that makes going to Jean Georges seem like such a New Yorker activity.

At the southwest corner of Central Park

Facing Time Warner Center
Of course, there's also the fact that Jean Georges has three Michelin stars, and has been popularized by several TV shows as one of the fanciest places to eat in New York City. (Dan and Serena have their first date here on Gossip Girl, and Monica and Chandler from FRIENDS have dinner here on their anniversary.) In real life, you can have a semi-affordable 2-dish lunch at Jean Georges for $58, with supplemental fees for nicer dishes like caviar, foie gras, and scallops, and an additional $12 if you want a dessert tasting.

The Jean Georges dining room is clean and airy, with high ceilings and windows, and lots of light. The mostly white and beige decor are punctuated by some gold and yellow, perhaps an homage to the fact that it is inside a Trump building.

Jean Georges

As with most restaurants, we started with a piece of bread and butter. I didn't think this was any different from a regular piece of bread and butter, to be honest. To date, the best I've had was at the aptly named "Butter".

As a complimentary amuse bouche we were given jalapeno corn fritters, persian cucumber with dill, and strawberry gazpacho. The corn fritters were tender, with a creamy and spicy sauce (possibly mayo or yogurt). All these tiny bites were just exciting enough to wake our appetites.

We ordered their house made ginger-lemon and cherry-yuzu sodas to drink. Jean Georges is not know for punch-you-in-the-face-with-intensity flavors, except for maybe their ginger-lemon soda. For me it was an amped up taste of home in a fancy setting. It is (understandably) similar to the citrus-ginger Filipino drink salabat.

For my first course, I had the peeky toe crab dumplings. These came with a soy reduction that was pleasantly sweet with medium spiciness, topped with (almost?) raw green beans and greens that were also a tad sweet. Interestingly, I thought this dish was the tastier of the two I had, considering I had veal scallopine as my second dish.

Mshel had diver scallops with caramelized cauliflower and a caper raisin emulsion. I've always felt that scallops are very lacking in flavor, but am always excited by the smoky sweet taste of caramelized cauliflower. Together with the caper raisin emulsion, this dish was very subtle but still tasty.

For my second course I had the sauteed veal scallopine with flying pig ham, mushrooms, and lavender. To me this dish was a bit lacking in flavor, but I did love all the different kinds of mushrooms. However, if I was basing my judgement of Jean Georges on this dish, I probably wouldn't give it 3/3 stars. I've had much better veal scallopine elsewhere.

Mshel's second course was the black bass crusted with nuts and seeds with sweet and sour jus. I thought this dish was more along the lines of what I would expect from Jean Georges.  First of all, the bass was clearly very fresh, something that usually separates the more expensive restaurants in NYC from the mid-range ones. You would expect a punch of flavor from the crust, but somehow it still has a subtle flavor. Much of the excitement comes from the sweet and sour jus, which is a great balance of sweet, sour, salty, and creamy.

Jean Georges desserts are artfully arranged tastings centered around a theme. For example, current offerings are chocolate, fig, stone fruit, and strawberry. Mshel and I chose caramel and chocolate at the time.

Yet again, my dessert tasting reminded me of home. The first bite was a flaky, sugary pastry with a side of caramelized bananas, the pairing of which was reminiscent of a turon. The second bite was a soft meringue with the tiniest bit of caramel or custard in the center, reminiscent of a brazo de mercedes. In all honesty, I've completely forgotten what the third bite was, and JG noob that I am, forgot to write down the items before they changed their menu, as they seem to do every so often. It looks like it could've been ice cream or panna cotta.

Mshel's chocolate-themed tasting was clearly the winner, however. Leftmost is milk chocolate custard with piedmont hazelnuts, smoked salt meringue, and candied orange. At the center is warm chocolate cake with vanilla bean ice cream. On the right is white chocolate ice cream with yuzu sorbet. She and I both loved the white chocolate ice cream with yuzu sorbet the most due to the unexpectedly perfect contrast of flavors, but the entire tasting was lovely.

Dessert is really optional though, especially if you are already full from the two courses. The reason is that the meal comes with complimentary petit fours. I made note of 3 out of 4 things on our plate. First was praline chocolate, another was a blackberry gummy, and the third an apricot macaron.

Last but definitely not least, a cart comes to your table with their house made marshmallows. These are little pillows from heaven. Don't snub them.

Mshel at Jean Georges

Lee's Art Shop

After Jean Georges, Mshel and I hit Lee's Art Shop, a place I've written about before. They're pretty relaxed about randos taking photos inside, as evidenced by this photo of us.

Hudson River Waterfront Walkway

Hoboken, NJ

After Lee's Art Shop, we took two trains to get to Hoboken. The Hudson River Waterfront Walkway, which stretches up the eastern part of Jersey facing the Hudson, is one of the best places to view the Manhattan skyline. Plenty of people jog and cycle here, but on that particular day, we were there merely to chat and enjoy the view.


411 Washington St
Hoboken, NJ

Hoboken is big on Italian food, with many restaurants making their own fresh mozzarella. But somehow, faced with the task of looking for something on the affordable side, I picked Grimaldi's for dinner. It did help that it was a short walk from where we ended up on the walkway. If you're unfamiliar with this place, it's one of the most well-known, touristy spots for pizza in New York City. Yes, they have great pizza. But I've always tried to stay away from it because I've always felt that very little in life is worth waiting in a long line for.

Luckily, we were in Hoboken, and were able to wait comfortably at the bar for two seats outside, where the lighting was decent despite the fact that the sun had set on our busy day.

They had a few drink specials and I ordered one of them. However their cocktail menu isn't available online, so I have no idea what it was. I believe it was some cutesy Jersey name like Hoboken Sunset or whatever. I do remember it being good.

For our appetizer, we ordered this insanely delicious fried fresh mozzarella, which reminded me of the "mozzarella sticks" at Tony's Di Napoli, but better. In fact I'm gonna go ahead and say I enjoyed these more than I did the pizza (which was also good, and good enough to reheat 2 days later).

For our pizza I had sausage on my side, and Mshel had sausage and pepperoni on her side. I personally like my pizzas to have a medium crust, somewhere between thick and thin, so this crust wasn't quite the best for me. But the toppings were fantastic, so I still enjoyed it.

And of course, I couldn't help but take a few shots of my bff in this lighting.

After dinner we rolled back into the city and met up with my friend Hyg at a restaurant that turns into a club after hours in Alphabet City. The place was packed with drunken revelers dancing to hiphop and R&B music, a lot of which was popular back when I was in high school, so... yeah I was one of the drunken revelers.

One of the many murals in the East Village
Post-bathroom break selfie lol
And with that successful end to our night, we trudged back home and woke up somewhat late the next day. :)

Related Posts:

Not Bored with Mshel: Smorgasburg, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and Pok Pok NYNot Bored with Mshel Day 1 and 2: NY Comic Con, Ayza Wine and Chocolate Bar, David Burke Townhouse, and MoMA
Not Bored with Mshel Day 3: Sant Ambroeus, Central Park, Artichoke's Pizza, and Banoffee Truffles