Friday, December 7, 2012

Weekend Adventures in New York!

Last weekend The Boy and I took the train to New Jersey to visit my aunt and uncle. As I stated in my previous post I was nervous about overeating, but trying to stay positive by telling myself even if I did, I’d be okay. 

Well, now we’re back, and I’m telling myself I’ll be okay. 

Friday night we arrived in NYC and my aunt picked us up. We decided to drive back to New Jersey for dinner. After dropping our stuff off, we headed out. Finding a good place to eat in New Jersey is like looking for a jar of peanut butter in my kitchen (trust me, it’s going to be there). The mention of a NJ creation called “Disco fries” convinced The Boy that a local diner was the place to eat (I tasted one, I can see what the buzz is about). They are this mesh of fries, gravy, and mozzarella. It’s not exactly appetizing to look at, but the one I stole (without cheese, mozzarella, yuck!) blew any fry out of the water for me. I can see where the phenomenon started.

(Sorry for the terrible pictures.)

We sat down in a booth on an especially packed night for the diner Park West. My aunt wasn’t kidding when she said you can find pretty much anything on their menu. To fully read the menu would take a good 20 minutes alone. Lost in the labyrinth of unknown and familiar dishes, I worked my way through the lists. While a good portion of the food seemed to be Hannah-friendly, I stuck to my good old friends, the salads. I chose the Honey-Mustard Grilled Chicken Salad. The presentation was beautiful. Large chunks of grilled (and blackened!) vegetables - zucchini, eggplant, carrots, tomatoes, and topped off with asparagus. The thin, tender grilled chicken was set on a bed of crisp spinach. While my eyes were occupied traveling the different slopes of the dish, the honey-mustard dressing softly and sweetly rose to my nose. As for taste, well, when I decided to be done, let’s just say there wasn’t much left.

After dinner my uncle called and we met him at Houlihan’s for his dinner and our dessert. My will power tried to stop my taste buds, but as I searched this new menu, I found a Hannah-friendly treat and couldn’t resist. Raspberry Sorbet. Three mounds of my least favorite color, but three scoops of silky rich sorbet. The tang of the raspberry came through just enough to not be overabundant. 

The next morning The Boy, my aunt, and I took the ferry into NYC. Here we walked around a few 9/11 memorials. I’d never been there before, and even though I was still really young when it happened, it was strange walking around that place. There’s still an air that floats above the people viewing the sight, a solemnness that no one could think to disturb. There aren’t many images from my childhood that I remember vividly. However, the TV screen showing a plane crashing into one of the Twin Towers, my mom so absorbed and calling my brother (only four years older) to come into the living room quick will take a lot to be removed. It was the only image I saw of it that day too, my mom took my brother upstairs to watch it, letting me watch a movie and have the day off from school. I didn’t understand what was going on, but somewhere in my head I knew something wasn’t right at that moment. 

Next, we asked a vender who could give us walking directions to China Town and Little Italy. A Hannah-friend lunch was found in Little Italy at Caffe Napoli. NYC menus are pretty forgiving. While they do serve white flour pasta, they also offer whole wheat and gluten free. I indulged in chicken marsala with whole wheat penne. I’m not sure how to describe the chicken, I love chicken marsala but I don’t eat quite enough of it to know the right words. However, when writing food, the important part is to give your opinion. My opinion? I’d eat it a second time. The penne was cooked perfectly, soft, but sturdy. Not sure if people use “sturdy” for pasta, but it was. It wasn’t disintegrating as soon as it touched my tongue. The sauce was as it should be, a pool for the main elements to swim in. Smooth, velvety, and just enough flavor. 

The Boy adventured to something new and tried gnocchi with red sauce and mozzarella. He then stated that he enjoyed it a lot, but every time he thought of it he thought “Yucky.” While I’m sure it’s delicious, the name does seem to give that impression…

Once we had finished stuffing our bellies with a full lunch, we headed to walk around for a bit till we could take a cab to the show. My aunt surprised us with tickets to Stomp. Loved it. The atmosphere of watching the performers create music with the oddest things was entertaining but also invigorating. The show holds so much energy. It’s hard to not enjoy it.

Before Stomp, however, we happened to pass Pinkberry. 

Of course, if anyone is a frozen yogurt fan and has eaten at Pinkberry, they know you do not just “pass Pinkberry.” 

So even though my belly was happily satisfied with meat and pasta, my mouth craved the creamy chill of frozen yogurt. The Boy and I shared a medium and we got Chocolate Hazelnut. Mmmm. Must I say more? 

Later that night we tried to see if we could get a spot at the Hard Rock Cafe or Dave and Buster’s. However with a two-hour wait at 7pm, we figured the Hard Rock was out of the question. So we kept walking. Eventually, despite the obvious reluctance on my uncle’s face, we chose a decent Japanese restaurant, Haro. As my aunt wanted to rest and relax from our long day, she gladly approved of the quiet, soothing “ambience.” My uncle, regardless of the fact he doesn’t like Japanese, found a dish he would eat. My aunt and I had a hard time choosing, sushi? A dinner? It all looked good. 

I enjoyed Teriyaki Chicken (hmm…I seem to have consumed a lot of chicken, I never noticed until writing this, interesting) and a role of avocado sushi (my favorite). I know most people like fish sushi, but I’m not a fan of fish. Plus, for me, the texture of avocado, the explosiveness of it as you throw a piece in your mouth is hard to beat. One bite and it splits open and there’s a luscious gush of that undeniable avocado flavor. As for the chicken, I probably could have used a couple more grill marks on mine, but, personally, I think I’m just a little obsessed with burning things. The teriyaki sauce was the highest end of sweet and savory. Again, the presentation was beautiful. It wasn’t like the restaurants that just pile everything on the plate; it was elegantly placed. 

The saddest day of our trip came too fast. The last one. Sunday, The Boy, my aunt, and I decided to waste some time at the mall. We ended up wasting five hours there. The Boy now makes me look like a slob with his fedora hat and new jacket. Seriously, I’ve got to start wearing my good clothes like all the time now. No more of this comfy t-shirt deal. I knew he was handsome, but sheesh. 

I got a dress that could top any outfit any day. The only issue is it’s not the type of dress you wear every day. Somewhere between feeling absolutely gorgeous in it, the look on The Boy’s face when I walked out in it, and the mild but slightly persuasive words of him and my aunt, I became convinced that buying a full-length gown might actually make sense. Either way, I love it to pieces. 

I think buying the dress made up for doing something I NEVER do. 

I ate mall food. 

In my head, I was a little scared. But this food court had some decent places. Not like the ones here at home. I got to enjoy one of the top foreign foods on my favorite foods list. Thai food. Mmmm so good! I first had it when I went to upstate NY to visit my best friend, Buds, since then any chance I get it’s one of my first picks. In the line you could pick either rice or noodles, and then two other options of meat or veggies. I got rice noodles with BBQ chicken (oh wow, again with the chicken. This is started to seem a little pathetic) and a vegetable mix. Surprisingly, I liked it. It wasn’t like world class or anything, but decent for a food court. 

That night, although I didn’t snap a picture (it was too good to wait), we had a homemade dinner with my aunt and her family. We feasted on whole wheat pasta, homemade sauce, a plethora of meat to choose from, and string beans and potatoes. For once I did not have chicken (although it was an option), instead, I went for the sausage. Yum. It was a good choice. My aunt’s parents are from Sicily. They are always a joy to be around. You know that feeling you have when you finally come home to those who you call family? Well, I’m only related to my aunt through marriage, but whenever visiting it’s always like coming home to second family. It’s just the type of people they are. 

As we enjoyed our winter meal (they made sure to let us known they would rarely eat that heavily during the summer months), we discussed our day and enforced will power to not eat every bite on the table. There isn’t much superior to a big meal with good family and friends. I don’t think we could have ended the trip in a better way.

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