New York New York

I imagine everyone has a favorite place or city.  Mine is New York City.  There is just no place like it!  I have lived near “The City” for nearly forty years and over those years have worked in Manhattan, lived in Queens for a short while, attended college in Brooklyn and visited the Bronx and Staten Island.  It is a city full of energy, diversity, culture, and most of all amazing food from all over the world.  I have traveled to many cities around the globe and New York is the only city that is literally awake all the time.  There’s even a 24 hour hardware store somewhere.  Food choices in New York are endless and new restaurants open daily while some close down.  New neighborhoods rise overnight (refer to my previous posts on Williamsburg & DUMBO sections of Brooklyn) and create new destinations for those like me who like to explore the little nooks and crannies of the city.

I had this epiphany recently while walking around Manhattan on a beautiful Fall day with a close friend. Many of my friends have heard me say that I could live in Portland Oregon and while that is true, I realized during my walk that Portland could never compare to New York.  It is just not on the same scale or in the same league.  I haven’t spent as much time in “The City” this past year because of my travels and general busy schedule so on this particular weekend I decided to take my friend S there to cheer him up after a tough week.  My mission was to find a way for him to relax and de-stress, find food that was gluten free & spicy and lots of good wine.  This is not an easy feat I learned. The gluten free part always throws me off as I can’t imagine living without bread.  After much pondering and a little bit of research I settled on Korean BBQ.

We started off our day a bit later than expected (It wasn’t because of me).  Luckily I had made some Pohe (pronounced PO-hay) – a popular Maharashtrian food that is savory/spicy and made with flattened puffed rice, chilies, ginger, peas & kaffir lime leaves – for a late breakfast to hold us over till what was sure to be a later lunch.

An old chuch to be turned into condos
Pier 66

 After a surprisingly quick drive in via the Holland Tunnel and finding a parking spot on the street, the first thing on the agenda was a walk along the Hudson to start the destressing.  We entered the walkway near Chelsea Piers and just wandered around with no specific plan or destination.  I come to this area fairly often in the summer time and it is absolutely packed.  What was nice about it on this particular day was that there were hardly any people at all.  It was almost as if we had the entire river front to ourselves which made it very relaxing and was perfect for us after a very stressful few weeks.  We discovered Pier 66 which is being developed into an outdoor space with restaurants and bars to be opened to the public next summer.  I am constantly amazed at the new things I discover every time I go to the city even after all these years.  Pier 66 for example has a railroad track that runs right to the Hudson River.  I imagine it was used at one time to carry cargo to the ships.  A bit geeky I know, but I find things like this very cool!

After walking more than 3 miles we were getting hungry and made our way to the restaurant I had selected, Don’s Bogam on 32nd Street.  I chose this restaurant because it had good reviews, specialized in gluten free food, and is known for it’s wine bar, thus satisfying all of my criteria or should I say my friend’s criteria. Actually I was surprised to see a decent wine list at a Korean Restaurant and was curious to try it.

We were pleasantly greeted and seated promptly at a table with indented seating so it made us feel like we were sitting on the floor.  A bit difficult, especially for those with long legs (not an issue for me), but cool nonetheless.  As I was looking through the wine list, I noticed an impressive list of sakes too and asked S if he would consider sake. He confessed he’d never tried it and so I suggested a slight variation to our wine plan.  It took a bit of convincing but we ordered a carafe of the Naraman Muroka Junmai.  It was described as fruity & floral with scents of peach and melon.  I thought it would make a good introduction to sakeland. For our lunch we decided to go with the cook your own BBQ and ordered Yangnyeom Galbi (spicy beef short ribs) and the Anchangsal (sliced skirt steak).

Very shortly, the carafe of sake arrived along with a whole slew of condiments and pickled foods as an accompiment to our meat.  The BBQ flame was lit and they placed our meat on it for us.  The meat on both orders was tender and flavorful.  We loved the spiciness of the Galbi and finished it all not quite recalling the last time we had consumed so much.  My favorite thing about this place, aside from the food, was that they did not rush us.  We sat there for hours and just took our time because we weren’t in any rush.  It was nice to just let a Saturday pass by over Korean BBQ and Sake and great conversation.  In fact, after our meal was finished, we decided to linger over another carafe of Sake, this time ordering a bit more boldly with a Otokoyama Tokubetsu Junmai “Man’s Mountain” which was a dry, full bodied wine that was absolutely delicious.  My sake newbie decided he liked the latter better than the floral one which I should have known since he generally drinks full bodied, Italian reds.

We were relaxed in our below the floor seats and hated to leave but thought we’d best before they started charging us rent.  We strolled around for a while and S decided he wanted some wine.  A quick search on Google Maps found us at Wine 30, a very small but cozy wine bar I instantly liked.  We sat at the bar and ordered a couple of glasses of red (wish I could remember what we drank, I just know it was good) and continued our relaxing day.  I opted out of a second glass as I had to drive home at some point and stuck to water for the rest of the evening.  After lingering for quite a while and some friendly conversation with our neighbors at the bar, we decided it was time to make the long walk back to the car and head toward home.

To readers of my blog it may seem like I have many of these fun adventures and relaxing days but in reality they are few and far in between.  I do believe in living my life to its fullest which is something I learned from my father.  No matter how busy life gets, I always make time for fun when I can; sometimes at the expense of necessary chores which will always be there tomorrow.  So how fortunate am I to live so close to the best city in the whole world, where life never really stops and yet can be slowed down at the same time, and have some wonderful friends to share it with.

Cheers New York!!

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