I wanted to treat Ben (and myself) to a little something special for our recent trip to New York, so I booked us seats at Dominique Ansel’s after-hours, 7-course, dessert-only, 8-seat tasting menu, Unlimited Possibilities (U.P.).
I first learned of U.P. from my friend Michelle, who wrote an amazing write-up for the “First Memories Last Forever” menu that was available last year. The thought and execution of a menu that was designed around memorable “firsts” really drew me in, and I loved seeing how they used dessert to evoke these experiences and tell a story.
(I’m going to tell you right now that I was not impressed with the desserts. They were a lot more fun to look at than they were to eat. We left starving and unsatisfied.)
This season’s menu theme is “American Dreams“. (The theme changes every 6 months.) Each course is meant to evoke a different era of American dreams, beginning with the gold rush and ending with viral video. There is an additional wine pairing option, although we didn’t opt for that because we don’t drink very much so it didn’t seem worth it. We were, however, given a champagne flute of sparkling apple cider (one of my favorites!) to kick off the evening as they lowered the table from the ceiling.
We were then served a savory amuse-bouche because it’s supposed to be an inverted tasting, so because all our courses were sweet, courses that would ordinarily be sweet were savory.
Our first course, Eureka!, was meant to evoke the gold rush. This was an interactive course, where we had to sift for gold nuggets. The “dirt” was coffee grounds were brewed during our meal and given to us at the end of our meal as a cold brew to enjoy. I didn’t realize that one of the nuggets was a sourdough bread pudding…? This was pretty fun to sieve through and the cold dessert was refreshing considering how hot it was outside. (A little messy, though, with the coffee grounds and lack of utensils to eat this with… Not exactly finger food!)
Last time on NYC 2016, we were a lot more successful with the alliterative post titles… and we really tried to experience some more typical tourist activities like Smorgasburg (which I left the island of Manhattan for, yes) and Broadway and even some shopping in Times Square, which both of us have learned to avoid. It was time for our last full day in my home city.
Note: I took almost no photos this day EXCEPT at our dessert-dinner, which will get its own dedicated post, so brace yourself for a lot of text and not a lot of pictures to go with it, sorry!
One thing I came away from our latest trip to New York with was the feeling that we managed to do so much this trip without exhausting ourselves. We had a lot of activities, but I didn’t plan every minute of every hour. We had a lot of leisure time built in. (Remember those cuh-razy naps in the middle of the day? Unheard of for me.)
We made plans to get dim sum with Ben’s friends that we were partying with in Koreatown the other night (which was bonus time with them, as we had only planned for dim sum!), so Sunday morning we headed down to Chinatown. Dim sum in Chinatown on the weekends is a great opportunity for catching up, because you will be waiting in line for a while. We wound up being seated fastest at Joy Luck Palace, which, to be honest, I wouldn’t visit again. The food was all pretty meh and we had to specially ask for egg custard tarts, aka dan ta 蛋挞! Those should be standard, not something we ask them to make for us and then wait half an hour to eat. (But shout out to the manager who did acquiesce our request for those little golden delights.) Also, in a show of who is truly more popular in the New York metropolitan area, Ben’s old college roommate’s family showed up for dim sum and I got to meet a lot of family members that I didn’t get to see when they graduated!
(There was also a lot of Pokemon Go, as the app had just been released a few days prior to our trip and there were a lot of Pokestops in the area!)
After dim sum, we chilled for a bit in Columbus Park while waiting for some other folks to meet us. My friend Yufeng showed me Columbus Park for the first time when I visited a little while ago and it is like a tiny piece of China in the middle of Chinatown. There are seniors doing tai chi and a lot of small kids running around with their grandmothers calling after them. Old men playing Chinese chess in their singlets, middle-aged ladies doing choreography for fitness. Often, there will be some music playing to accompany the dancing and/or tai chi. It’s a really serene park that I love spending down time relaxing in. We chilled while watching a local league basketball game go down (they were really good!) and I panicked once when a small child ran directly to me for help in tying off his water balloon. (It’s like he knew that tying off water balloons is one of the skills I was too afraid to learn?!)
With the whole crew assembled (and a few new Pokemon for our friends), we walked over to the Bowery Beer Garden (located beneath the Wyndham Garden Chinatown) to watch the much-anticipated UEFA Euro Final between Portugal and France. We got there pretty late as far as a good view of the TVs went, but we were still able to enjoy the game. Soccer is one of the few sports that I get really into watching, but I haven’t been following for a while. When asked which team I was rooting for, I didn’t know until the end when Portugal scored their sole, game-winning goal and I felt devastated. Evidently, I was rooting for France! It was a lot of fun to watch the game, despite how hot and mosquito-y the day had started to feel.
Ben and I then parted ways with our friends to start heading over to Greenwich Village for our dinner reservation. Well, dinner might not be entirely accurate. I wanted to treat Ben to something special, so I got us seats at Unlimited Possibilities (U.P.) by Dominique Ansel. I will have a more in-depth review coming up soon, but it is an 8-seat tasting menu of all desserts. The theme of ours was American Dreams, with each course based on a different era of American success and ideals. I would definitely recommend eating a light dinner beforehand, as the courses, while well-thought out, aren’t very big. And it is dessert! (We scarfed down some more Joe’s Pizza in Washington Square Park before heading inside because duh.) It was a really nice experience that I’m glad we could try once.
Holding little silver balloons and bellies full of sweets, we headed back up to our hotel to meet one of my oldest friends, who lived just a few blocks away. (I thought he had moved, but he’s still there after a few years!) We had a quick catch-up late-night meal at BXL Eastand it was just like old times. I’ve known him since I was 12 and no matter how much time passes between us talking, we fall really easily back into laughter and jokes, which I appreciate so so much.
Our last morning in New York, we woke up, enjoyed our coffee parting gifts from U.P., and munched on pastries at the nearby Paris Baguette, which may be becoming a departure tradition for me. Then, one last yellow cab trip to the Javitz Center to reminisce about a very boring conference for Ben and away on our bus we went.
And you can bet we got Bojangles upon returning to DC this time.
What is a treat-yo-self meal that you like to indulge in when you visit New York? It was my first time doing a ~fancy~ meal but I know there are a lot of other ways to blow cash on good food in the city!
What are your favorite dim sum dishes? Mine are the 凤爪 chicken feet (!!), the 蝦肠粉shrimp in rice noodle rolls, and 蛋挞 egg custard tarts, among many others.
Where else should we have visited in New York? We can go next time!
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.
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.
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 »
Last time on NYC 2016, Ben and I came up to my home city to eat and catch up with an old friend. And we had more eating and catching up to do!
After getting some much-needed rest, it was time for me to meet up with my brother! He’s been staying in the East Village for his summer internship, so we headed over to check out his place and take him out for dinner. (I actually bumped into one of my friends on the subway trip over there! Ben teases me relentlessly for how many people I know and run into unexpectedly. This chance meeting marked unplanned encounter #1 – keep track of these, there are more coming.)
My brother was sharing the apartment of an art director for Marc Jacobs with one of his college roommates, who was working crazy long hours but still had a smile on his face when we saw him. It was a pretty nice place, and within walking distance of The Bao, where we went for dinner. I really loved the xiaolongbao (soup dumplings, aka XLB) at Joe’s Shanghai last year and wanted to compare this spot on St. Mark’s. My brother and boyfriend were both very surprised when I thought we had been a little ambitious with 6 orders of XLB and a vegetable. As it turns out, they were right; we left with plenty of room for more food.
Sparing you my cheesy “Big Apple Recap-ple” titles this year. You’re welcome, and not safe in the coming years.
Just a note that I didn’t take very many photos this past trip, as I was really just trying to… take it all in. In fact, Ben and I didn’t even think to take my photos of ourselves or of each other. We’ve come to the point where we’ve visited so many times that we aren’t taking as many photographs. We’re trying to enjoy each other’s company, the company of our friends and family, and this amazing city that I have loved for so many years.
Apologies for the massive blocks of text!
Ben and I went up to New York the weekend after Independence Day (aka a few days after returning from the wedding in Roanoke) in what has become an annual trip back to my home city, to The City. We headed up Thursday evening after work, grabbed some McNuggets at Union Station to stave off hunger, and eagerly awaited getting some of that Halal Guys combo with rice at 53rd and 6th. (We were told that the Halal Guys would open franchise locations by the summer of 2015. As you may have noticed, it is now the summer of 2016 and the locations have yet to open…) (STILLMADABOUTIT)
This was the first time that Ben and I really took advantage of good ol’ New York City yellow cabs for getting around, starting with getting from our bus stop to our hotel, which was about 2 miles away. I’ve always preferred traveling by cab over ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber, and the advertising in the cabs confirmed a lot of the reasons I had. Drivers are vetted, you know exactly where your fare charge comes from, there isn’t surge charging, and you are able to hail a cab without dealing with an app that maybe doesn’t work or picks up the wrong person or something. The reason I think those apps succeeded is because they were great apps that allowed you to summon cars when you weren’t able to wait on the road and hail a cab in a lower-traffic area. But now that New York has apps that allows you to do that with cabs, I honestly don’t see a need for Uber or Lyft. Some people are under the impression that taxis have a harder time accepting credit cards, but that’s just not true. Legally, all taxis must accept credit cards, and you can also use the app to pay for your ride as well, just like you can with other ride-sharing services. Long story short, I take yellow cabs when I’m in the city because it is really convenient and I don’t think that Uber or Lyft have changed that. (Note: Big Taxi did not pay me to say any of this. 😛)
We arrived at our hotel, totally pooped, but I managed to peel myself off the bed so we could get what we came to New York for – that chicken and rice from Halal Guys. I was maybe too exhausted to really make that trip, but dang it if it wasn’t maddeningly delicious. (Maddening because… we can’t have it at home yet. We have to make this pilgrimage to eat this simple meal.)
After a small mishap with the super dangerous red sauce (it is spicier than you think, I am pleading you not to underestimate it) and me wandering around the floor to find the ice machine to mollify that situation, it was time to sleep and get ready for our first full day.Read More »