A Delicious Bite out of the Big Apple

When visiting New York City, why not do something special and explore the unique food scene of the Big Apple?

When I came to NY for the first time and my friend collected me from the airport, she couldn’t stop laughing when I declared: “the first thing I absolutely need to do is have an authentic, gigantic NY Hot  Dog”. I devoured mine, trimmings and all, on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of all places, but after that, I was ready for anything. I felt as if I had really arrived.

Help is at hand for that special NY food experience in the form of Ahoy NY Tours &Tasting.

ahoy_image_TM

The company offers three hour food tours combining culture, history, food and fun. Founded in 2008 by food enthusiast Alana Hoye Barnaba, her passion which is reflected in the tours are Chinatown and Little Italy. The company is also a founding participant of Chinatown Restaurant Week.

Alana

Alana

Not only will you enjoy meal sized portions of such specialties as fresh dumplings and home made mozzarella, you will also get to see interesting, tiny shops  (some 100 years old) and vendors in the neighborhood and take home with you insights and knowledge of a different culture which will stay with you for a long time and make your NYC visit truly special. Mind you, it’s not only tourists who join the tour, many a local loves to benefit from Ahoy’s insider knowledge.

Here are some interesting fun facts about Chinatown and Little Italy… learn more on their walking tour!

  • Little Italy has 4 businesses all on one street that are all over 100 years old.
  • While fortune cookies can be found in Chinatown, they are not native to China.
  • One street corner in Chinatown formerly held the statistic to have the most murders to occur in one spot in all of the US.
  • The cannoli, an Italian pastry with Sicilian origin was once made using a broomstick.
  • Little Italy was once known as the “Italian Wall Street”.
  • Both Little Italy and Chinatown were originally a Dutch farm.
  • Some of the best Vietnamese food in NYC can be found in Chinatown, specifically on Baxter Street.
  • One can eat a delicious, hearty meal in Chinatown for $6.00.
  • The movies Mean Streets, The Godfather & Big Daddy all had scenes filmed in Manhattan’s Little Italy.
  • The oldest tenement building in NYC is located in present day Chinatown, which once was considered Little Italy.

 

What to expect in Chinatown

From small beginnings, New York’s Chinatown is today the biggest in the US. The tour will lead you through the thronging streets to sample:

A sit down dim sum experience

Authentic fresh dumplings

Mouthwatering dumplings

Mouthwatering dumplings

Traditional Chinese pastry

The oldest dim sum parlor in town, Nom Wah Tea Parlor in 13 Doyers Street, is on the agenda.

What to expect in Little Italy

Not many Italians are living today in Little Italy, but the gastronomic traditions live on as fresh as ever.

You will taste:

Home made mozzarella with prosciutto

Prosciutto and mozarella tasting

Prosciutto and mozarella tasting

Cheeses and olives

The sinful Sicilian desert: cannolli

The Ferrara Bakery & Café in 195 Grand Street is on the itinerary.

Cannolli at Ferrara Bakery

Cannolli at Ferrara Bakery

For schedules and prices, please consult Ahoy’s website

What’s stopping you from taking your very special bite out of the Big Apple?

Disclaimer: I have been offered a complimentary tour but have not yet been able to take up the offer.

 

 

Best foods from a stall

Maybe it is because the summer heat in the south of Spain is over or because so many of my writer friends whom I diligently read back are waxing lyrical about delicious food, but recently I have become interested in food too. It all started with my recent series Germany in a pot, writing about German specialties from North to South and continued this morning when during my usual walk along the beach I happened upon a stall selling churros con chocolate. The smell was so enticing that I joined the long queue and gobbled up the piping hot pastry there and then sitting on the sand. It also gave me the idea to write about food best consumed fresh from a stall.
Churros con chocolate
The pastry is often eaten for breakfast which is why the stalls are only open until around 12. The dough seems to me the same as for crepes, then it is filled into a press and squeezed into boiling oil in the form of a long coil and fried to a crisp. Drained onto a roast and cut into manageable pieces, the churros are either sprinkled with sugar or, more popular, accompanied by hot chocolate sauce into which they are dipped.

CIMG1548

stall
The pastry is only good when eaten hot and on the spot. Filled into a paper bag, you happily amble along munching on your churros.
Many cafeterias also have churros on their menu and not only in the morning but it´s just not the same.
Let´s stay in Spain, this time in the Northwest, Galicia to be specific. Vigo, a port city on the Atlantic Ocean close to the border with Portugal is famous for

Oysters at La Piedra
Seafood and oysters are a specialty in Galicia and particularly in and around Vigo with many oyster farms in the Bay of Vigo. Part of the old port is called La Piedra and that´s where you can have a real seafood festival. Oysters in all sizes are sold at the many stalls lining the narrow streets of La Piedra. You wander from stall to stall, buy what takes your fancy, then carry your purchase to one of the nearby open air restaurants where it is put on a plate and your drinks are served. Mind you, restaurant means just a few rickety tables and miss matched chairs all in the line of on the spot al fresco eating.

oysters

New York Hot Dog
When I visited New York for the first time I only had three days. I was meeting up with a friend who, like me, just loves anything under the general heading of ART. That´s why our agenda for the short time was museums, art galleries and shows. Our first stop was the Guggenheim Museum and there I immediately switched from culture to stomach. I always, always wanted to have a real New York hot dog and a vendor stood with his cart right next to the entrance. I got my hot dog with all the trimmings and it was consumed on the steps of the august museum. It was December and freezing cold, so we had to eat with our gloves on but what a pleasure.

Berliner Curry Wurst
Let´s stay with the sausage because Wurst is the German word for sausage. This particular one was actually invented by a lady called Herta Heuwer in 1949 in Berlin. That is to say not the sausage as such but the sauce she served it with at her stall. Ketchup instead of mustard and a secret mix of 25 curry powders plus chili. Berlin´s favorite snack was born. Although she was approached often, Frau Herta never sold her secret recipe to one of the big companies.

Fish and chips
Nowadays it´s very difficult to find an original stall or small shop which sells nothing but the fabled fish and chips. It´s a good sized chunk of breaded cod, hand cut deep fried potato chips, salt (plenty), vinegar (plenty), the whole wrapped up in newspaper, preferably the Times. I have heard it said, that the newspaper gives it a special flavor.
Like lentils which was once a poor people´s dish, fish and chips have turned designer food and are no longer served in a newspaper mantle but on plates.
If you know of more stall foods from other countries, please add to the collection.

Bemelmans’ Bar in New York

I don’t much like pubs, but I love bars. If they are: decadent, plush, with piano music, great cocktails, elegant, sophisticated and inviting. Belemans’ Bar in new York perfectly fits the bill.

The  was visiting a friend over Christmas, two years ago. She is a travel writer too, but of far more acclaim as I can ever hope to be. Which meant, that the Plaza Hotel had comped her for a night to write about their recent refurbishments and the Eloise shop for a New York magazine.  Generously, she took me along  and we both had a great time.

The  next day I I was in for a surprise. I told her that I would like to visit Bemelans’ Bar. Believe it or not, a born and bred New Yorker, familiar with all the cool places, she  had never heard of the establishment. It made me quite proud, I must say  to be able to be her  guide for a change and off we went to   another New York landmark hotel, the Carlyle.

Located on 76th Street and Park Avenue, the Carlyle is a bastion of post-war decadence with the splendor of the times still in place.  Stepping inside, is like entering the world of Scott Fitzgerald. The names Bemelman and Carlyle are inseparable because the illustrator of Eloise’s ‘sister in mischief’ , Madeline, decorated the Bar with a vast mural of a picnic in Central Park where the revelers are rabbits. It’s the only remaining  work of the artist on public display. In exchnage for the creation of the murals, Mr. Bemelman and his family got to stay for free in the hotel  for a year and a half.

Madeline is twelve and lives in an old , wine covered house  in Paris, the youngest of eleven girls and, like Eloise, ready to take on the world and determined never to be bored. Ludwig Bemelman illustrated the books and although Madeline never set foot in Bemelman’s Bar (might have had something to do with her age!) I can vividly imagine her hidden in one of the deep leather banquettes, listening to the piano player and having serious opinions about the posh clientele.

Photograph curtesy of Bemelmans Bar

I had one of their glorious cocktails with lots of lemon and fresh mint in it and said a toast to my childhood, made entertaining in great part  by the adventures of Eloise and  Madeline. We spent about three hours in the bar, listening to the piano player and getting into conversations with other guests. The tables are small and quite close together, so it’s nearly inevitable to exchange a word or two with your neighbors. And I was surprised how sociable New Yorkers are. During the three hours we talked to an attorney, a record producer, a journalist and a socialite, each and very one happy to enjoy the atmosphere and to discuss Mr. Bemelmans  and his rabbits.

Afterwards, we needed to catch a train from  Grand Central Station. The doorman wouldn’t let us use a taxi, he snapped his fingers and one of the hotel’s luxurious Mercedes curtsey cars  took us  to the station in style. Free of charge, will you believe it, but the driver got a very nice tip indeed.

 

Vienna 2012 and Gustav Klimt

Art lovers, pay attention. If you need an incentive to visit the Austrian capital next year, the 150th anniversary of painter Gustav Klimt may be it. It’ s certainly for me and one way or another I’ll find a gap to make my way to Vienna.

Gustav Klimt is one of my favorite painters, the other being Paul Gaugin. As you may deduce from this choice, I like my painting to have vivid colors, an exotic background and to portrait people catching their soul and essence in a unique way which makes me look at them again and again, every time discovering a new angle. I also like to know what I’m looking at. Miro, Dali and Picasso do nothing for me. I find their lives and personalities far more entertaining and interesting than their works of art. But that’s just me. Lastly, I like BIG paintings. Tiny canvasses which I have to squint at are tiresome. Again, that’s just me. Anybody who has different views, and there are bound to be a lot, please let me know and educate me to the errors in my personal view of art.

Back to Klimt. Born in Baumgarten near Vienna in 1862 he was the son of a gold engraver  and a musical artist. Klimt won a scholarship to the Vienna Art school and began his artistic career by helping his teachers paint vast murals. He later became a member of the Vienna Secession, a group which provided exhibitions for unconventional young artist and brought foreign artists to Vienna. Influenced by Byzantine mosaics which he saw in Ravenna, Klimt entered what is know as his Golden Phase, huge paintings and portraits, preferably of women with a distinct but elegantly executed eroticism, often making use of gold leaf and the distinctive elements of Art Nouveau.

He shared his personal life with companion Emilie Flöge, wrote and traveled little, concentrating on his work which, apart from portraits included a few landscapes and fathered 14 (!) children. He died in Vienna in 1918.

One of his most famous portraits, that of Adele Bloch-Bauer can be admired in New York’s Neue Galerie located on 86th Street and 5th Avenue which I had the pleasure of visiting two years ago. The museum is dedicated to 19th century German and Austrian artists and established in a building which, all by itself, is a work of art.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer

Next year sees the 150th anniversary of Klimt and Vienna is preparing to celebrate big time. At least 10 museums of the city are arranging  special exhibitions, among them Wien Museum, Kunstwerk Museum, Albertina and Villa Klimt, the last remaining studio of the artist.

Many paintings and drawings will arrive on loan, but as far as I could make out, Adele will firmly  remain in her New York home, which doesn’t really come as a surprise given that the portrait was acquired  for a record $138 Mill.

Neue Gallerie New York

For a great selection of images of Klimt’s most famous paitings, visit artsy’s Gustav Klimt page.

 

Eloise and Madeline in New York

Christmas is that time of the year when childhood memories tend to surface. Where did you spend the holidays when you were a kid, what did you enjoy, what did you read or was read to you?

When I was recently in New York, I had the chance to indulge in a kid’s world in a very adult fashion: Eloise’s Plaza Hotel and Bemelman’s Bar, decorated by the illustrator of Madeline.

Remember the opening phrase of Eloise written by Kay Thompson and illustrated by Hilary Knight: “I am Eloise, I am six .” Precocious Eloise lives in the Plaza Hotel in a room on the’ tippy top floor’ with her nanny who repeats everything three times, her pug dog Weenie, her turtle Skipperdee and two dolls.   I have three things in common with Eloise: we travel the world, we like room service and our mandate is never to be bored.

The Plaza Hotel, recently refurbished to old splendor with plenty of modern features and touches is majestically located on 5th Avenue. A venue very much to the liking of glamour grannies of which there were plenty around, I might add.

I treated myself to tea and pastries, Earl Gray freshly brewed and NOT from a tea bag and a chocolate cake to die for. I peeked into the Oak Room to make sure everything was still there, but then followed the call of Eloise. Descend downstairs and enter kid’s paradise. An entire suite of rooms is dedicated to Eloise. It’s  a glorified playground where little (and not so little) girls and boys can come and relive Eloise. Rows upon rows of closets contain clothes – most of them pink of course- which the kids can try on and admire themselves in mirrors. Vanities line the walls with make up for the kids to apply. Tables are set up with toys and everything to delight a child. You can have private birthday parties there or any other celebrations you want.

Eloise dressing room in the Plaza Hotel

Sit, play and be a child again!

Take your grandkids or god kids or friend’s kids here to play and become a child again or think about making a party a Christmas present. Or get them one of the many toys and other things which are for sale in the adjacent Eloise shop.

The next day I headed for another New York landmark hotel, the Carlyle. Located on 76th Street and Park Avenue, the Carlyle is a bastion of post-war decadence with the splendor of the times still in place. The names Bemelman and Carlyle are inseparable because the illustrator of Eloise’s ‘sister in mischief’ , Madeline, decorated the Bar with a vast mural of a picnic in Central Park where the revelers are rabbits. It’s the only remaining  work of the artist on public display.

Madeline is twelve and lives in an old house, wine covered house  in Paris, the youngest of eleven girls and, like Eloise, ready to take on the world and determined never to be bored. Ludwig Bemelman illustrated the books and although Madeline never set foot in Bemelman’s Bar (might have had something to do with her age!) I can vividly imagine her hidden in one of the deep leather banquettes, listening to the piano player and having serious opinions about the posh clientele.

Mural in Bemelman's Bar/Carlyle Hotel

Picture courtey of Bemelman’s Bar