Monday, April 28, 2014

An homage to gluttony

Has it been two weeks already? I was somewhat remiss in posting last Monday, as has become this blog's custom (posting on Mondays, that is, not being remiss). However, while I had spent a lovely Easter weekend in New Jersey with family, I didn't have too much to say about it. No point in blogging just to hear oneself type, as they say. 

At any rate, this weekend I did something a little more interesting, at least by own ranking of how interesting I think people will find things. A friend organized a culinary tour of Flushing, the neighborhood in eastern Queens that contains our borough's Chinatown. I'd eaten at restaurants in Flushing before, and always with someone who knew what they were doing/where they were going. Flushing is far too crowded, chaotic, and full of options for me to feel comfortable navigating on my own. Or at least without doing research first, which so far I've been too lazy to do.  

Our friend/guide had a number of places he wanted the troop to hit up. I skipped eating in a couple of them because I have a finite amount of stomach space, but everything was so good that after a short rest in a random Irish bar (we stepped in to avoid the rain), I was able to eat a full dinner as well. Below are some of the things we ate.

Sam enjoying his dumplings
 The first place we went (photo above) was known for its dumplings. While Sam and some others were inside the store buying food, the rest of us waited outside (because it was a tiny hole in the wall place, and we couldn't really fit). A random guy came by and warned us in both English and French that the place we were standing in front of was bad news and had been previously shut down for sanitary reasons. Since our friends had already gotten a feast of food for like $3.50, we decided not to heed his warning. And since it's a couple of days later, I guess I can say that was a good idea. I have no idea what was in the dumplings, but they certainly tasted good.

Sam enjoying some spicy duck neck. You can see the duck heads in the background that no one in our group was adventurous enough to try. 

A market
Dragon fruit within said market
 I was surprised that the prices on produce weren't actually any cheaper than the produce market in Astoria. They did however have a greater variety (see above).

One of Sam's artsy photos.
 My favorite thing from the pre-sit-down-meal portion of the day was the Peking duck bun below. There was a woman sawing pieces off whole roasted ducks and putting them into rice buns to order. Whatever sauce they put on it was delicious.

This duck bun deserves its own photo
The place we went for dinner was Biang and it was also wonderful. By that point, I'd tired of taking photos of my food, but trust me, it was all highly photogenic. I recommend the place for anyone looking to enjoy Flushing from a comfortable seated position. While there was a bit of a line by the time we left, it was also relatively crowd-free. 

I spent the rest of the weekend continuing to eat things and not exercising at all. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Good times in low country

Last week I had some touristing in my own city, but this week I went a little farther afield. A friend's parents live on a beautiful barrier island near Charleston, South Carolina, and she invited me down with her for a weekend visit. It was a short trip, but so relaxing down there, that I feel quite refreshed. The tiny island where they live seems like one of the calmest places. It's totally quiet at night except for the birds and insects. Deer roam up to the house and dolphins swim by the marsh right by their dock (full disclosure: I didn't actually see any dolphins myself, but I was told about them in great detail). No one locks their doors and when we biked to the beach or the grocery store (both only 10 minutes away!) we just left them unlocked as well. It's a different world and definitely a different pace than Astoria.

At any rate, here's a few pictures from my trip: 
This was taken in their front yard. I like the ambiance of the Spanish moss and the palms. There were also beautiful azaleas and wisteria blooming everywhere (sadly not pictured). 

First day we arrived was absolutely gorgeous and perfect beach weather! This photo may be documenting the process of me getting a weird sunburn on the part of my left thigh that I somehow missed when applying sunblock, but it was worth it. 

We ate dinner the first night by the marina on the island. Unfortunately the place we were going to go was too crowded, so we ended up getting food from a place that wasn't so great. Well my food was good, but apparently nobody else's. At least we could all enjoy the lovely sunset. 

This is the view from her parent's deck during high tide. It was lovely to sit on the deck or down on the dock with a cup of coffee in the morning.

Beautiful egrets on the water! Just capturing some of the fauna of low country on our bike ride to the grocery store. 

We went into Charleston proper for a day. I didn't get that many pictures of  the beautiful old houses because we mostly drove past them, and it didn't seem worth it to photograph. Suffice is to say, Charleston is a very old and charming city though. And also contained this picturesque graveyard.

The oldest Unitarian Church in the South. Or so said the sign. We were told the ceiling inside was magnificent, but alas, it was closed. 

The Angel Oak. A beautiful old tree that is estimated to be somewhere between 400 and 1,400 years old. I guess they won't know for sure until it dies and they can count the rings, but hopefully that doesn't happen for a while. 
Charleston is definitely a very interesting city, and I'd love to spend more time there sometime. There certainly seem to be a lot of good restaurants, and we only had time to sample a couple. Those of my readers who enjoy house tours (and I know there are at least two of you) would also enjoy that aspect of it. So that's a short summary of my weekend jaunt. It was a lovely time, but I'm also happy to be back to Sam and Dinah who Sam claims did make a show of missing me in my absence.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Uptown touristing

This Saturday, in celebration of the fact that spring is finally here (sort of) and because we were invited, Sam and I headed to far uptown Manhattan to do a little tourism. We were invited by a friend in Washington Heights to try a brunch place in her neighborhood that was apparently recently highly reviewed by the New York Times. I'm wary of such things because usually no good can come from your neighborhood being "discovered" other than longer lines for brunch and higher rents. But then she owns her place and there was no wait to speak of, so I guess my concerns as an Astorian are different.

At any rate, after a lovely brunch in what clearly deserves to be highly reviewed for their steakhouse bacon alone, we decided to walk off a bit of brunch by heading through Fort Tyron Park and checking out the Cloisters.

A little bit of Spring in Fort Tyron Park. 
Hope and change.

The Cloisters are a part of the Met that contains Medieval Art in a fittingly designed castle-like building in Washington Heights. I'd been there a few times, and it always amazes me how far you can feel from the city while still on Manhattan. 

Not your typical Midtown architecture.

Me at the Cloisters. Touristing.

Some sort of saint killing Satan. 
After a short jaunt about the Cloisters, we all journeyed downtown a bit to St. John the Divine. Now this is one place I had never been, which always surprised Sam. When in Europe, I hit up the major cathedrals, but it never occurred to me to check any out in my own city. St. John the Divine is apparently the fourth largest Christian church in the world. So it's kind of amazing I never stumbled on it. It's situated near the Columbia campus in Harlem. Unlike many places in Harlem, they also have a number of peacocks roaming the grounds.

St. John the Divine. The fountain in the foreground was supposed to symbolize peace, but it had a number of giraffes depicted on it who seemed to be battling one another. 
One of the reasons for the trip to the cathedral (other than the fact that I had never been) was to see the giant phoneixes (if that's the correct plural of phoenix) on exhibit. Made of the trash from demolished buildings in Beijing and somehow transported from China to Massachusetts and then again to New York (during a January snowstorm no less), these 12 ton, 100 foot long birds, now hang from the cathedral ceiling.
Here's a close up, to get a sense of the incredible detail.
And one last look at the head.
After the church, we went to the Hungarian bakery across the street for some coffee and strudel. I felt very much like I was on vacation rather than than just spending a Saturday in the city where I've lived for almost six years. I guess that's one of the wonderful things about New York. You never do run out of things you haven't done.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A respite in Texas

This past weekend and the first bit of this week (hence the late posting) was spent visiting friends and family in Texas. We flew into Houston Thursday night, drove to Austin for the weekend, and then back to Houston to spend a couple of days before flying back to New York last night. It was something of a whirlwind trip, but a fun one. And one you can now re-live with me in photos!

Sam didn't believe in pulling over to the side of the freeway to take pictures of bluebonnets (it's "dangerous") so this is my best attempt at capturing the beauty of spring in Washington County. I call it "Spring in Washington County as seen at 70 miles per hour." 

These bluebonnets were not captured from a moving vehicle and were actually not in Washington County at all. These flower were growing at the arboretum in (well, near) Houston. I broke chronology and put this photo here though so that you can appreciate how much nicer bluebonnets look close up.

This photo is evidence that Sam was doing all of the picture taking on this trip. He loves graphic art. This was taken in Austin. 

Another one of Sam's shots from Austin. It's like you were there!

Two of the lovely ladies I went to Austin to see. We walked around this outdoor graffiti park and it was a lovely day for it. We probably would have walked around a little more but there was poison ivy and none of us were wearing proper footwear (not pictured).
Now to jump to Houston! (The road trip back was uneventful). My parents took us to Perry's for their famous pork chops. Alas in this photo, the pork does not appear as ridiculously massive as it does in real life. 

We went to the arboretum where the above bluebonnet photo was captured. In addition to lovely flowers, they also have very photogenic turtles.

Not surprisingly, Sam took this one as well. I think it came out very well. That said, it looks like I'm wearing some kind of all black funeral garb, so I would just like to clarify that I'm wearing a striped maxi skirt (with not enough contrast, I guess), and a dark denim jacket. It looks less goth in person. 
That about sums up the trip. It was a great deal of eating, so now I'm going to need to slowly integrate vegetables and non-fried things back into my diet. That and making 1,400 bookmarks are basically the project for this week.