Brazil Day and Broadway| NYC 2017

(Previously, on NYC 2017, we were reunited with Ben’s college friends over dinner, board games, and a night out. After some rainy dollar pizza, we went to sleep ready for our first full day in the city for the weekend.)

(Apologies about the lack of photos in this post. I’m discovering that I seem to have lost some data from this day specifically? Best case scenario is that I deleted the photos when I was clearing out the junk from when I accidentally had my camera on burst mode. At worst, the card got corrupted. ☹️)

The next morning, after sleeping in a little bit, we got up for lunch at Xi’an Famous Foods (review), my first time finally trying any location of this famous northwestern Chinese eatery. I majorly regretted ordering a noodle dish for Ben and myself, as we really should’ve split one along with the cumin lamb burger I ordered. Having leftovers while traveling in New York just doesn’t make a lot of sense, and yet we had way a lot of noodles in our hotel mini fridge until the morning of checkout. Oops, that was definitely my bad, I didn’t communicate what we were ordering very well. Err on the side of ordering less, you won’t go hungry!

[ all photos from Xi’an Famous Foods are MIA, hopefully the video isn’t corrupted and I can put together some vlogs for you guys in a few years 😛 ]

From there, we started walking towards Times Square. At this point in our lives, we avoid Times Square because it is not as fun as the flashing lights would have you believe. (It’s hard to believe how recently I made sure to visit Times Square with every visit. I still wind up there almost every year, but not nearly as enthusiastically.) But we wanted to see what tkts had to offer for shows that Sunday, so off we went. The Sunday before Labor Day was actually Brazil Day in Manhattan, so we caught glimpses of a live Brazilian concert and stall after stall of food. It was a freaking bumpin’ time in the middle of the island and I got pretty swept up!


At tkts, we spotted Anastasia tickets on sale for 50% off, which was amazing and incredibly exciting because I have been DESPERATELY wanting to see this show. (Fun fact: I saw Anastasia in theaters and on ice. The movie is very near and dear to my heart, especially as a December baby.) Unfortunately, there were only individual seats left, and the point of me and Ben seeing a show together is to be together. So we opted to see Groundhog Day in the last days of its run, which ended on September 17. Before leaving Times Square, I checked out the art installation “Once Upon a Place” by Aman Mojadidi. Consisting of repurposed phone booths, visitors are invited to step in, close the door to the hustle and bustle of the literal center of Times Square, and pick up the phone to listen to real immigrant stories from real New Yorkers. It was a lovely quiet reprieve to step into another experience.


We ran a few quick errands, picking up bits and bobs for our flight to Paris and walking through some of the stalls that were up for Brazil Day, and dropped off our things at the hotel after a quick bubble tea stop. (The 3 Guys is so tasty! One of my first boba orders in the city and it is always a go-to when I stop by CoCo.)


Not sure of what to do for dinner, we wandered through almost all of the food stalls still open for Brazil Day, which was winding down, as we made our way back to Broadway to watch Groundhog Day (review). I’ll admit, I was not that excited to go see this show when we got the tickets or even when I walked to the theater. But by the time I sat down in my seats, I got that tingly anticipatory feeling I get when I’m facing a stage and taking in the pre-show vibrations of the theater.  I haven’t seen the original Bill Murray movie but the show was incredible, with some super dark humor I wasn’t expecting and a great second act opening number that featured the girl who is an object of sexual desire singing about her role in life (and more specifically this show). I laughed, I cried, I loved this show.


Ben and I both knew exactly what we wanted to do after the show: hit up Halal Guys (review), one of the few spots that we visit every single time we come back to the city. They’ve since (FINALLY) opened a brick and mortar location closer to home, but nothing beats the fresh food from the carts, so we enjoyed our short walk over without a torrential downpour. I wasn’t feeling hungry, so we split a single platter, which was a mistake as that delicious plate of food really triggered my appetite! We’re thinking that this may be our last time waiting in line for the original cart, as we learned that cart charges more! So you are paying more for the exact same food (we saw guys prepping meat and rice at a stand down the street and bringing it over) when there is another cart LITERALLY across the street. Yep, that means there are no fewer than 3 official Halal Guys stations going on at the corner of 53rd and 6th, with 2 of them serving platters and one of them with a long line. The line moves fast but we’re starting to feel awfully silly standing in it. Bellies full of good food, we closed out the evening watching Slumdog Millionaire and dancing to “Jai Ho”.


Here’s just a handful of seconds from this day, even fewer than the previous one!

What’s the last great musical you saw? I hope I get to see Anastasia sometime soon and, of course, I still gotta see Hamilton!!!

What are your favorite simple meals in the city? Ben and I really truly love going to the Halal Guys cart every single time we come to the city. I’m glad we finally got to visit Xi’an Famous, too, and I get the hype even though I don’t like cumin! That’s part of what I love about New York’s food scene, is the simple meals that don’t break the bank and are really reliably good.

Bagels, Brooklyn, Broadway | NYC 2016

Last time on NYC 2016, we wrapped up Friday with a lot of food adventuring with my brother before finishing out the evening dancing in Koreatown with Ben’s college friends. Saturday, I finally ventured off the island of Manhattan…

Saturday morning, Ben and I woke up bright-eyed and ready for something we had been waiting months to taste again: bagels. Bagels are one of those foods I really took for granted when I left the New York metropolitan area. I like them in general, but I have a special feeling when I eat the ones from my home metro region. (And while I’ll eat basically any bagel I see, I know a bad bagel.) Pizza and bagels in my home city can bring tears to my eyes. So we headed to the nearest bagel shop to us. Luckily, it was a block away and a traditional Jewish bagel joint! We were in luck!

JUST KIDDING it was Ess-a-Bagel, one of the most popular bagel shops in the city, especially among tourists. We wound up waiting in line for literally 2 hours. I loathe waiting in line, especially for food, but there weren’t many bagels shops nearby and I figured if I was going to wait for something while in New York, a really great bagel was worth it.

Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat?

I also decided to finally try a bialy! Yet another food item that I didn’t know I was taking for granted until I left the area and saw nary a mention of the traditional Polish pastry.

A bialy, whitefish salad on everything, and lox with the works on whole wheat everything

After filling up on bagels… it was time for us to meet my friend Ying to leave the island (!!!) and head to Brooklyn for Smorgasburg. Smorgasburg is the “Brooklyn food flea market” and has become really well-known as a spot where many innovative food vendors can set up shop on the weekends for foodies to try their wares. It is home to many Instagram-famous foods, like the Ramenburger. Now I was pretty apprehensive about Smorgasburg for a bunch of reasons, like my hesitance to leave Manhattan for food when there is food aplenty all over the island, my general side-eyed skepticism of Brooklyn and Williamsburg’s hipster scene, my extreme side-eyed skepticism about the hype of the food at Smorgasburg, to name a few. But I was still excited to finally experience this foodie haven that so many people have been urging me to try out, despite already knowing that nothing would taste as good as the Instagram hype was big.Read More »

Do You Hear the People Sing?

First of all, huge shout-out to MyTix, which gives people ages 18-30 or who are active duty members of the armed forces access to crazy discounted tickets to performances at the Kennedy Center.


These are not some dinky $2 discounts, either. You can see shows at something like 75% off the regular ticket price, in really great seats, for really amazing shows. You can look at a show and see that tickets cost $50-$150 depending on your seats, but then buy them on MyTix for about $20.

What’s the catch?
You might have to fight for these ticketsTo the death.

My friend Annie told me that the NSO Pops was doing a tribute to musical theater duo Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg (you may know them from their most famous musical, Les Miserables) featuring the flawless Lea Salonga (you may know her as the singing voice of Disney’s Jasmine and Mulan).
For a measly $19. Say what?! Pause that spending freeze, I needed to get in on this.

Tickets for “Do You Hear the People Sing?” went on sale for MyTix members at 10 AM.  So you best believe I was on the website at 9:55, ready to refresh at a moment’s notice. I was armed and ready. I had coordinated with Annie so that my seat was next to hers when…
… I never got a ticket confirmation. I looked at my ticket page and the ORDER DIDN’T GO THROUGH. Panic mode engaged.

I must have typed in my credit card number wrong (typical) and luckily for me, my seat was saved. I made it. I did not think I would ever be able to afford Kennedy Center tickets before a more respectable age but here I was, going to my first show at this amazing venue.

Kennedy Center at night from DC Metro Arts (source)

First of all, there is a free shuttle that goes to the Kennedy Center, and on the shuttle ride I was able to listen to classical music and smooth jazz. I mean, honestly, I could’ve just sat on that shuttle bus and rode around DC if not for how crowded it was.

Second of all, the venue is spectacular. I didn’t manage to snap a photo of the main hall, but there are flags on either side and a paper cut art installation at the end when you walk in:

Kennedy Center
Tracy over at posted this great shot though! (Source)
Bronze bust of namesake President John F. Kennedy by artist Robert Burke
One of the views from the terrace
The ceiling of the main concert hall features these bubble chandeliers that make it look I moved my hand while taking the photo, but the crisp hexagonal pattern defends my basic photography competence.

Oh friends.
The show itself was so marvelous. It was so well-structured, the transitions were done very nicely. The orchestra was, of course, superb, as was conductor Steve Reineke.

But let’s talk about the ineffable Lea Salonga for a moment. Oh Lea. There was so much talent on that stage over the course of the show but Lea demonstrated the best vocal control up there. In my head, I reasoned that these other Broadway stars were just intimidated being in the presence of Lea Salonga because, well, I would! Save for Terrence Mann, who is such a seasoned performer that he doesn’t need to feel nervous around anyone ever, the other singers didn’t seem to have the same control of their voices that Lea did: strained verses, losing control and going sharp, little things that I’ve come to expect Broadway performers to not do. No one is perfect, so I don’t think I really would have taken notice if Lea Salonga wasn’t so incredible and on her game. (But I’m a biased fangirl. What do I actually know?) (Answer: Nothing. I don’t know anything. What is a blog?)

Boublil and Schönberg are best known for Les Mis as well as Miss Saigon, two shows that I would say Lea Salonga is also best known for starring in, so our tribute concert began with some pieces from Miss Saigon, came around with La Révolution Française and The Pirate Queen, and finally indulged us with Les Mis.

What I really loved about the show was the insights to each musical and song that we got. It wasn’t just “Here’s a song from Miss Saigon, enjoy!” Someone on stage (the maestro or one of the singers) would explain the context of the writing of the musical, the context of the song within the musical, the background of the singer performing, and more. Truthfully.. <leans in close> I’ve only seen Les Mis. But I could still appreciate that a naïve  17-year-old Lea Salonga was taught how to make love to a man onstage by her male director for Miss Saigon. And that The Pirate Queen was conceptualized after a suggestion from Riverdance.

The entire program was excellent, marvelous, spectacular, magical. The best part was at the end. We had this amazing surprise:

Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg came out!!!

Literally, I gasped in unison with the theater. We did not expect the composers themselves to be there! They popped out for just a brief moment and then ducked back out, but I mean… I actually stopped breathing. What a surprise. Their music brought us all here, and it brought them out as well.

L to R: Terrence Mann, Kathy Voytko, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil, Steve Reineke (a bit behind Boublil), Marie Zamora, Eric Kunze, and Lea Salonga

Super magical spectacular evening. And my friend was so worried that “Do You Hear the People Sing” wasn’t in the program. Come on. It’s the name of the show, it’s obviously the encore piece. 🙂

What are you favorite Broadway musicals?
What are your favorite concert/arts venues?