Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Trip to New York

I recently spent a day in New York City. It was my first visit there in quite a while. I’m one of those people who would never want to live in New York, but enjoy visiting. Upon emerging from the Port Authority bus station, I took in a host of scents, sights and sounds. As I walked to a restaurant, the scent of baked bread and fried food wafted out from storefronts to mix with the smell of garbage and exhaust. I was truly surprised by the number of smokers. I found myself constantly dodging smoky clouds on the sidewalks. I saw representatives from Grey Line tours, dressed in red jackets, try to approach potential tourists. One man looked at the agent with incomprehension.

“No speak English,” he said.

“No English?” the agent asked, without becoming discouraged. “Spanish?”

Since I’m so used to being the foreigner, it was funny to see the other side.

What I most looked forward to was some good food, since I’m tiring of the mediocre, overpriced food where I live. I timed my arrival for lunchtime, since the weekday lunch selection in New York is vast and the prices reasonable.

My lunch spot - Pongsri’s Thai restaurant – was the winner of the day. This is one good place near the theater district among many tourist-oriented mediocre restaurants. Visit weekdays at lunchtime for the $6-8 lunch specials. The food arrives piping hot within five minutes. It starts to fill up around 12:15 p.m. My pork entrée had a nice, lightly spicy, ginger taste. The service was quick and efficient, the atmosphere cozy. Great value and worth seeking out.

I would rate my other food stops as nothing out of the ordinary.

I was excited to try Red Mango frozen yogurt because I’d heard about the recent spread of this chain. The yogurt had a very tart taste though, like drinking frozen kefir. You almost need to buy one of the attractive toppings (I went for Ghihardelli dark chocolate) to lighten the tang. With a cup with one topping starting at $4, I won’t be returning.

Les Sans Culottes is a little French restaurant with a cozy interior and very cool appetizers. They bring you a basket full of raw vegetables and slices of cantaloupe, as well as a rack of sausages that you can cut off yourself. Almost everyone gets the $25 prix fixe three-course dinner. It sounds like great value, and it could be, but the food is just blah. The vegetables look cool, but I’d actually prefer them cooked or blended together in a salad. My flan dessert tasted like it had just been removed from the freezer. And my entrée, a beef stew that came with mashed potatoes and sides of fries and rice, was OK, but the sauce and all the carbs overwhelmed the meat.

I just happened by Buttercup Bake Shop and a huge line had formed by the time I left. Mouth-watering cupcakes, cakes and goodies line their cabinets. The key lime pie with a gingersnap crust was pretty good. A small pie, which serves 3-4, is $7. I was disappointed with my peanut butter mud bar though. I expected it to be rich and gooey and was disappointed to find it crumbling and not all that delectable.

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