Everything I ate in New York

I want to tell you everything about New York and how in love I am with this city. There’s something about walking in its streets that makes you want to do it everyday for the rest of your life. I can’t say the same about taking the subway, but you get my point. It’s an amazing place, but I don’t think my writing can ever do it justice.

Aside from working (yeah, sigh), mindlessly walking around, drinking beer, lounging on park benches and scouring for cheap kicks, what I constantly did in three weeks was eat (a lot). I consumed a copious amount of beer, ice cream, and pizza because that’s what New York is all about (at least that’s the part of New York I can afford).

So how do I tell the story about my trip? Let me show it to you through food.

Pizzagasm

New York is a goddamn dream for pizza lovers. You can find a slice of plain cheese for as cheap at 99c! I could’ve eaten pizza there everyday and die a happy, fat girl.

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(From L-R): Artichoke Basille, Doughboys Pizza, Joe’s Pizza

While I did not discriminate (I ate at Doughboys–pretty mediocre, but still pizza–like every week), I still did my research on where to get the best slice in New York. All blogs pointed me to Bleecker St., where I found Joe’s! I don’t have a sophisticated palate, so I can’t break it down for you why exactly Joe’s is good, but believe me, IT’S SO GOOD—from the slightly burnt crust to the sauce—everything works. If you want to eat inside the store, you have to do it quickly and while standing up.

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Ordering at Joe’s Pizza. They don’t have a lot variety when it comes to the slices

Would it be sacrilegious to say Artichoke Basille‘s creamy artichoke pizza is better? Oh my god, the best thing I ate my entire New York trip. I still think about that huge-ass slice up to now. The sauce was so dreamy (like a carbonara on your pizza) and the crust wasn’t chewy at all the morning after (because who can really finish one slice of New York pizza in one sitting?).  I regret that I didn’t get to eat there again so I promise it will be my first meal when I come back.

Smorgasburg Prospect Park

It was a perfect spring Sunday morning for some brunch at the park. We went all the way to Brooklyn (if you’re coming from Queens, you’d know what I mean) for some Smorgasburg! It’s a seasonal outdoor food market with close to 100 vendors and all the varieties of food you can think of. As with any food markets, it can get overwhelming trying to figure out what to get.

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Fat kid is on her element. 🙂

Naturally, we were attracted to anything meat! We were torn between pulled pork and cheese steak (I was having cheese steak straight from Philly the day after so I passed), but we ended up getting a big fat slab of beef rib with horseradish and arugula relish from Carnal. SO GOOD. (But when you see the oil, you just have to look the other way.)

Smoked short rib carnal

Smoked short rib

Cheese was also an easy choice for me. The raclette craze is sweeping over Manila, but I hadn’t tried it. I now get why people are going gaga over it, because seeing the melted cheese slide from the wheel to your sandwich is something else. But I admit, the taste underwhelmed me, although this more on my lack of culture (I don’t know jack shit about cheese) than anything.

Raclette NYC

Looks so good though.

If you can’t decide what to get next, sometimes, you just have to follow the line. That’s what I did for dessert. There were so many stalls selling all sorts of iced treats (there’s even Ube halo-halo, which is getting super popular in New York), but Malai Ice Cream was attracting visitors left and right so it was hard not to line up as well. I ordered a scoop of lemon cardamom ice cream and paid extra for a five-spice cone because I LOVE anything tart and I LOVE anything red.

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Dad asked if I wanted tacos after, and I declined. Now every time I’m hungry, I think about that moment I said no to food and this hunger is my karma. WHO THE HELL SAYS NO TO TACOS. (I’m just realizing now that this trip was more of what I didn’t get to eat than what I did.)

I admit that we didn’t enjoy Smorgasburg to its full potential (that’s what you get for having a health buff Dad), but it was still a great day for food.

My favorite things

You will NEVER go hungry in New York. There’s a restaurant or a food stall at literally every corner of this sprawling city. At my Dad’s work place, you can get pizza, ice cream, pastries and bagels or get something healthy at Trader Joe’s without walking more than a hundred steps.

In Queens, it’s even more diverse. Filipino restaurants line the streets of Woodside from 61st (where Jollibee is) up to 70th (where all the lutong bahay are) while it becomes everything Mexican–from food to toys–when you walk towards the 76th.

In the middle of that (72nd St.) you can find one of my favorite things, gyro! Whether it be lamb or chicken, I can never stay away from it. I’m lucky that in New York (and elsewhere, really), there’s a gyro food truck always available. (Sad story, though. I got food poisoning from the leftover chicken gyro. I had to stay away from it for the rest of the trip.)

favorite food gyro

Post-jogging grub.

From Queens, we went all the way uptown to the Bronx for the most decidedly American meal—chicken fingers with salty garlic fries and a huge-ass soda. It’s the perfect thing to eat at Yankees game—no mess, finger food. I would’ve gone for a beer to go with this if it wasn’t fucking freezing at the stadium that day.

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Take me to the ball game.

I don’t mean this as an insult, but America in general doesn’t seem to be a fan of keeping fit. Their serving portions are out of whack; it could feed three people back home and what they consider a small soda is equivalent to the largest cup in the Philippines. So most of the time, we couldn’t finish our meals.

But I can’t say the same for these tacos from Chelsea Market, which I finished in less than 5 minutes! 😂( Thanks for the tip, Charm!)

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Tacos and ice hold horchata

If you can’t decide what to eat at Chelsea Market, Los Tacos makes it easy for you. Lines are always long, but the wait isn’t (at least when I went there). You give your order at the cashier (the women manning them were nice), give the ticket to the cooks, then wait at the side of your meal. You can either eat there at the bar or by the window or get it to go. I ordered two pieces of Carne Asada ($3.75 each) and a glass of Horchata (my first time to have this) and ate them at a nearby park. My idea of perfect lunch!

Something for my sweet tooth

Full disclosure, I tried watching my weight the entire trip (operative word: tried). I had  worked SO HARD to lose close to 10 pounds before the trip, and I honestly didn’t want to waste it.  But being surrounded by food made that impossible. So instead, I tried to avoid the killer—sweets. Again, tried, and again, failed.

Let’s just start with the ice cream. I probably had one scoop every day, because as with everything in New York, it’s never just ice cream. There’s always a pleasant twist there somewhere and you have to try it to find out.

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(Left) L’Arte Del Gelato at Chelsea Market and and (right) basic vanilla chocolate cone from Big Gay Ice Cream at Greenwich Village.

But out of all, I think the best is Morgenstern’s at Lower East Side. This was my friend Charm’s favorite ice cream place, and for good reason! I ordered a small cup of the burnt hazelnut, and the combination of salty and sweet got me wanting for another scoop (but I didn’t order another. I still have limits 😬). It was phenomenal! The line gets really long, though, so it’s not a bad idea if you go there with a friend so you can chitchat while waiting. They have countless of flavors available including coconut ash, their best seller. They will willingly give you a free taste to help you decide.

morgensterns nyc

SO GOOOOOD

Over at Greenwich Village, there’s also no shortage of places to get your sweet tooth fix—from historic coffee shops to eccentric donut stores. I joined a food tour conducted by Free Tours by Foot (which I highly recommend, by the way—I’ve taken 4 tours with them and all are great) so I got to eat highly-recommended places in that neighborhood.

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Italian pastries, chocolates and oatmeal desserts (in one afternoon!)

We made stops at Pasticceria Rocco where I got a mini pistachio cannoli,  OatMeals where I had a warm oatmeal bowl with toasted coconut with almonds, Doughnut Project where they sold bagel donuts (and others that I can’t imagine eating) and Varsano’s chocolates, where everything is homemade and hand dipped!

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Levain’s signature Chocolate Chip Walnut cookie.

At Upper West, I also got to visit the famous Levain Bakery. I got their signature Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie and the dark chocolate type and ordered ice coffee to go with it. Levain Bakery is just a few blocks away from Central Park and the cookies were good company that afternoon.

Loyal Asian

Would you believe me if I said that one of the few things I miss all the time from the States is Panda Express? (That’s what happens when you eat there all time your first US trip—now it’s what America is to me 😂). The grim reality is there’s not even a branch within a two hour flight of Manila, so I cannot NOT eat at Panda Express when I step on US soil (I’m not that hard to please).

But unlike in the West Coast where Panda Express is practically everywhere, I have to go to Queens Center food court at Elmhurst to get my Orange Chicken fix. I don’t really mind the travel because that mall is awesome and my love for Panda Express runs DEEP.

panda express

Orange chicken and brown rice! AAAH

…and so is my love for those Chinese take out stores (it’s amazing how they still use the same take-out box I see on the TV shows). There will never be a trip where I won’t eat anything stir-fry from there.

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Can feed two people, but good enough for just me.

I also made several trips to Flushing Main St., where you can find the Chinatown in Queens (I think it dwarfs its Manhattan Chinatown cousin). For some reason, I really love the vibe here. The busy streets, the chaotic sidewalks and the smell of Chinese food give off this energy that you won’t get elsewhere (Here’s the reason why I’ve visited Hong Kong one too many times). Dad doesn’t like the chaos, but I still managed to drag him there for dinner on Mother’s Day (I think it helped that it’s just the last station of the 7 train 😂). We were in and out of that place in 30 minutes.

asian Flushing Main Street

Dinner for two.

And of course, I ate at Jollibee. It will always bring me back home wherever I am and I’m  pretty sure that’s what other Filipinos who dine there feel too. I wanted to avoid Chicken Joy until I got back to Manila (I wanted it to be the first thing I eat), but after two weeks of American food, I caved. 😄  I guess you can take me out of the Philippines, but you cannot take the Filipino out of me.

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Tastes like home. ❤️

Misses

That’s not everything. There were lots of hotdogs, fries, bagels, biscuits and pretzels that didn’t make the photos (because I ate them right away). It’s surprising that I didn’t gain weight (or maybe I’m just a lucky SOB).

But I still can’t believe there are still must-eats that I haven’t tried.

First is pastrami and eye at Katz Delicatessen (I mean, c’mon) in Lower East Side. Real story is that I planned on eating there on my last day in NYC but ran out of cash (their sandwiches cost $20). What an embarassing reason, but it’s the real one. 😂

Next is steak for same reason as above. The fact is whether you’re dining in Manila or in New York, Wolfgang Steak and Pete Luger are hella expensive. I’m sure it’s well worth it, but I was at that point where I chose shoes over food. Not next time, though.

Another is cheesecake from Juniors at Broadway. My friend and I went there on a rainy Sunday but it was still packed to the brim.

Oh, and note to self, next time, spend an entire afternoon at Chelsea Market.

All the more reasons why I need to come back. Soon.

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Missing Hong Kong? Do a Binondo food crawl

This time last year, we were roaming the streets of Mongkok and getting our hands on every street food we could see in Hong Kong. Our afternoons were spent gobbling down waffles lathered with peanut butter and condensed milk and fish balls swimming in spicy sauce and getting drunk on milk tea.

Since a Hong Kong food trip this year is out of the question (but I’m going to Bangkok!!! wooohoo), we settled for Binondo instead for our Chinese food cravings. I realized that I’ve been to Binondo several times (just for the food), but I’ve never eaten anything outside of Wai Ying and Eng Bee Tin. Thanks to the Filipino foodies, I got an idea how to change that.

Disclaimer: I don’t know how to describe food (but I’m going to try). I just know what I like! 😀

First Stop: New Po Heng Lumpia House  (531 Quintin Paredes St.)

They said it was going to be hard to find this place, but it was actually the first restaurant I spotted. It’s less than a 5-minute walk from Binondo church (you will see it on your right) to Quintin Paredes St.

It’s an al fresco eatery in what looked to me like a low-end condominium lobby. Since we went on the Sunday, we were the only ones there. They said they only sell lumpia (P60) on Sundays, which wasn’t a problem because that’s what we went there for anyway. 🙂

new po heng lumpia

It tastes exactly like lumpiang sariwa, only much better. It reminds me of a burrito, but with Chinese flavors. There’s a very thick sweet sauce to go with it. Jan and I had to share one lumpia, because it would be the worst thing to start the Food Crawl on a full stomach. 

Second stop: Dong Bei Dumplings (642 Yuchengco St)

So we headed to the vicinity of Binondo Church, where you can find some place interesting to eat at every corner. Nearby, there’s Dong Bei Dumplings.

We were lucky to find a table inside. While waiting for our orders, two other groups arrived and they had to stand for a bit. It’s a small place, made smaller by the fact that the ladies of Dong Bei wrap the dumplings in front of you, occupying a quarter of the dining area.

dong bei dumplings

We ordered Kuchay with pork dumplings (P150 for 14 pieces). Honestly, I’m not a biggest fan of Kuchay but I wanted to go for the best seller. 

No regrets! The Kuchay wasn’t too overpowering. I usually let Jan eat more than I do (60/40 split—the guy has to eat more in my book!), but I gobbled down half of the plate. There’s light soy sauce with chili available at your table to dip the dumplings in.

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Instead of soda, we wanted our food crawl to be authentic (I don’t know how authentic you can get in Binondo, but hey, we tried), so we ordered a can of Herbal Tea (Jia Duo Bao) to wash the dumplings down.

Third stop: Chuan Kee (Ongpin cor. Yuchengco Sts.)

We really wanted to eat at Sincerity and Cafe Mezzanine, but they close at 2pm on Sundays.

Chuan Kee was a detour. We went in not knowing what was good, so we looked around and ordered what other people were having. It’s a typical fast food restaurant which serves Filipino and Chinese food.

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We went for a bowl of Kiampong (Chinese fried rice, P50) and lechon macau (P110).  They have an extensive menu, but we thought the two dishes go together perfectly (and they do). We were in an out of there in 10 minutes (yeah, third stop and we were still that hungry).

Fourth stop: Lord Stow’s 

You don’t go to Macau and not pick up an egg tart. You can find it everywhere! But the best egg tart belongs to Lord Stow’s, no question. For some bizarre reason, Jan and I only bought one apiece when we went to the Venetian (WHYYY). I regret that to this day.

So this time, we bought a box (P165, 4 pieces) for good measure. We didn’t eat inside the cafe because I found the lighting too dim for my liking. These also wasn’t a lot of space for diners, anyway.

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The egg tart certainly isn’t as good as the one from Macau, but it’s still good!  Though it came a tad too eggy instead of more custardy for my taste, I still finished it in two bites. LOL. There’s not a lot a don’t like.

Fifth stop: Wai Ying

On the way to Wai Ying, I was wondering where all the Milk Tea stands have gone. I have not seen a single Bubble Milk tea kiosk since we got to Binondo.

Good thing, Wai Ying serves the best iced milk tea ever (I’m exaggerating, I was just really thirsty). It can’t help but remind me of Hong Kong. It doesn’t have pearls, which is probably for the better because the worst thing in a serving of bubble milk tea are the pearls (SO MUCH CALORIES).

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A trip to Binondo isn’t complete without eating at Wai Ying. They have the best (made better that it’s affordable) dimsum in town (if you want to dispute that, hit me up with suggestions)! To cap off the food crawl, we had a serving of hakao (P80) and siomai (P75). We were already full by this time, but let’s just say, the food on the table didn’t last long.

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One for the road: Eng Bee Tin (Ongpin St.)

My family would kill me if I went back home without tikoy and hopia from Eng Bee Tin. Everything is pricey, but they are just SO GOOD. We bought a pack each of hopia monggo/ube and sesame/peanut tikoy roll.

Before leaving, I saw that Eng Bee Tin was selling salted egg custard pao! Even if I was full beyond belief, I just had to try it. Good thing the bun was small (size of my palm) so I still found space for it in my stomach.

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Look, I haven’t had any salted egg paos from other restaurants so I don’t have anything to compare it to. The filling was runny (was it supposed to be that way?) and sweet, but not over the top and the salted egg part of it was more on the texture, not the taste. I still liked it!

After the trip, I was still getting suggestions from friends on where to it. Pretty sure we’re going to do this again.

 

Of banana boat rides, wine toasts and super friends

In the middle of my crazy schedule, I found the time to fly to the Bahamas and vacation with my crew. I don’t always go on banana boat rides, but when I do, it’s with my homies LeBron, DWade, Melo, home girl Gabrielle and hubby CP3.

banana boat

Best banana boat ride ever.

We also toasted to a great NBA season ahead! After all, none of them won the ring last year, so they need all the luck that they can get.

But shit, sorry, I was too busy fiddling with my phone.

wine toast

Epic wine toast!

Seriously, they should come down as the most amazing band of brothers in the NBA, and I’m hella lucky I actually like all of them–Melo included. I’ve followed and fangirled around for the past few years–Ask me who attended whose wedding, which wife liked hanging out with the other wives, who godfathered whose baby, and I got you covered.

Chris Paul's entourage.

Chris Paul’s entourage.

Wade and Melo at CP3's wedding.

Wade and Melo at CP3’s wedding.

Savannah, LeBron and CP3 at Melo's wedding.

Savannah, LeBron and CP3 at Melo’s wedding.

Chris Paul's wife Jada at LeBron's wife Savannah's bachelorette weekend in Vegas.

Chris Paul’s wife Jada (in pink) at LeBron’s wife Savannah’s (in white) bachelorette weekend in Vegas.

LeBron did attend Wade's wedding!

LeBron did attend Wade’s wedding!

Oh wait, wrong wedding. LOL

Oh wait, wrong wedding. LOL

I’ve always had this dream of seeing them suit up for one team: CP3 at point, D Wade at 2, LeBron at 3, Melo at 4. Now, Blake, can you play five?

Notes: Apologies. Just discovered the wonder that is the pen tool in Photoshop! HAHAHA.

Expectations vs Reality

Tonight, I am at the beach house. I find that everything is a mess, but I just don’t have the strength to do anything about it. Not tonight. I open the fridge, pop open a bottle of Merlot and walk out to the front porch. I sit on the slightly damp couch. It has been raining the past few days so everything around me is wet. I set down my glass of wine, and put my feet up. It has been another exhausting week, and my mind finally gave out. The tabs I’ve been wanting to close for weeks finally crashed. My head is blank but I let the sound of the crashing waves fill my head. I stare at the long stretch of beach surrounding my house. It looks pristine even under the pale moonlight, but not as beautiful as when the sun is shining mightily over it and I could see the sand sparkling in between my toes as I my footprints during my morning walks.

I wait. It’s one of those rare times I’m at home and do the waiting. So I fill my glass over and over until I have drained the bottle. That’s my cue to go to bed. It’s late, but I’m still alone.

I walk up to my bedroom and find that like the rest of the house, it’s also a mess. The bed is unmade, some papers have flown because I left the window open all day. But I just walk right past them and lie down on my side of the bed. The pillows are cold. Everything’s cold. But not for long.

I doze off. I find that it’s easier to just fall asleep when you’re mind’s not racing and chasing ideas after the other. This is the dream.

Tomorrow, I will wake up. There won’t be crashing waves, but just the sound of rain violently pounding on the rooftop. I will find myself in a bed too small for 3 people in poorly-painted room. The first thing I will see before my eyes could even fully adjust is an assortment of clothes hanging where it shouldn’t be. Everything’s a mess here, too. Because whichever reality I’m in, mess follows me.

I will be welcomed to a brand new day by the sound of an infant crying, and suddenly all the thousand thoughts that I worked so hard to fend off last night will come rushing right back. This is reality.

The picky TV geek is in a coma

Tonight, for the first time in a long time, I had a chance  to watch TV. I had a few hours to kill and with my backlog of shows begging to be trimmed down, tonight would’ve been a perfect place to start.

But I didn’t.

Instead, I spent that few golden hours in between Elle falling asleep and me needing to follow suit just staring at the ceiling, literally not moving an inch.

So this I ask with all the emotions I could muster: what the fuck happened to you, Celest?

Didn’t TV use to be my life? Every chance I got, I watched. TV used to be my escape. You could insult me and say, “Dude, you’re really overreacting it’s just TV.” But here’s the thing, it never was for me. TV was life. It was passion. It got me through the rough days. It transported me to places I wanted to be when I Hated where I was. It got me through heartbreaks. It got me through the worst part of raising a newborn–the sleepless nights. TV was there. TV was best friend.

And for me to just give up on it without a fight, is just sad and incredibly inconsiderate of me. What’s even sadder is I couldn’t give the decency of a logical explanation. But honestly, even I am stumped. Hundreds of episodes sitting there unwatched, headed to waste.

But there’s really no point in resucitating something that’s not responding any longer. Tonight confirmed something, I’m ready to give up on TV for now.

Here’s to hoping somewhere along the road, I get the surge of energy to go chasing after you, TV. I’m going to love you back, one episode at a time.

(Though the picky TV geek in me is a coma, this blog, however, will continue to live. At least if you can call one blog post per every two months as living.)

Facial Hair Glory

My love for men with facial hair isn’t a secret. It’s all over my web feeds. Just look at how I obsess over Stephen Amell every day. Though my lust, uhm, love for him goes beyond his stubble. Have you seen those arms?!

Back to the point.

Honestly, there’s nothing sexier than a man with perfect five o clock shadow. Pretty boys don’t have a space in my heart, rugged looking men with slightly unkempt facial hair, however…

Anyway, where else can I find these men to swoon over when my partner can’t grow a`decent beard to save his life? On TV, of course. Through out the years of I’m extensive fangirling, I have come up with a list of men whose hotness levels are through the roof just because of, you guessed it, facial hair.

Patrick Dempsey. Derek Shepherd in Grey’s Anatomy. My original McDreamy. Perfect hair all over.

Matt Bonner. Neal Caffrey in While Collar. Aside from being just absolutely fucking handsome, the occasional scruffiness just kicks everything up a notch.

 

Johnny Galecki.  Dr. Leonard Hofstadter in The Big Bang Theory. I don’t think he’s ever worn a beard on the show, but I saw him with full facial hair glory in one of his cameos in Entourage. Even the geek got hotter.

Justin Baldoni. Rafael Solano in Jane the Virgin. My god. He’s charming as hell!

Adrian Grenier. Vincent Chase in Entourage. Vinny’s no pretty boy, if his curls are any indication. The stubble just makes him even more appealing.

Stephen Amell. Oliver Queen in Arrow. No explanation needed. He’s perfect.

 

Did I miss anyone?