As I write this I’m sitting in my own bed in London, my clothes strewn across the floor, my bag unpacked but my trusty backpack still sitting next to me, as it did every single day of my travels. I’ve been back for a week and, despite the fact that it’s quite nice to be settled for a bit, I wish I was still travelling, still exploring and still meeting wonderful people across the globe. But I’m back, though ‘home’ I’m not sure if I could use.
I think people underestimate the power of travel and the feeling of freedom it brings. I took the trip to discover, to meet friends and to eat, I did all of those things and more, but I also took the trip to escape. I visited cities I have never known before, caught up with old friends, solidified friendships that have hitherto been solely based online, fell in love with people, with places, with ideas… and so yes. Yes it is a come-down to be back in a place where I do not – have never – felt that I belonged, but it’s also an opportunity for me to prepare myself for what may be many more Big Adventures, to recharge my batteries, and to wait for another chance to meet so many more friends and discover where it is in the world that I may call ‘home’.
This is the last post in my travel series from the Big Adventure. Thank you all so much for the friendship, the support, the laughter and the tears, the singing, the food – everything. It’s been wonderful.
It’s Up To You New York
I had never been in New York before and I was ridiculously excited about it. Last minute, a friend of a friend, Fiona, had offered up a spot at her place in Queens for me to crash at for three days (only three days in New York! What?!) and as it turned out I can think of nobody better to have stayed with, because Fiona was a superstar of immense proportions. Not only was she incredibly hospitable, kind and funny, we bonded so fiercely over those three days that I know she is a friend who will be dear to me for life.
A fellow photographer and like-minded soul, we spent one evening at her place messing about with silly photos and came up with this gem, one I like to call Worshipping At The Temple of Apple:
Photo credit: Fiona Yan.
I know that we’ll see each other again – Fiona, you are incredible. Live your dreams!
And then the business of being a tourist. Well, when in New York… oh, and did I mention Momma Lee came out for the last day for some running around town together?
Tom Hanks can suck it.
New York Public Library (Ghostbusters!).
The Empire State Building & views from the top.
I desperately wanted to go to David Chang’s Ko but had heard that it was next-to-impossible to get a reservation as you could only book a week in advance and there were only fourteen places per cover, of which there were only a handful each evening. In other words it would take a Miracle Worker for this meal to happen. Ladies and gentlemen: meet my Miracle Worker.
I knew before I met him that Ken and I were going to get along famously. I can’t even put my finger on it, maybe it’s just because he’s fabulous and I adore him, and that may or may not be what I slurred to him as I stumbled along the road clutching his arm after our dinner at Ko, a dinner that had featured alcohol pairings over thirteen courses. Ahem. I don’t have the greatest tolerance in the world, okay?! The point is that he’s wonderful and he is also a Miracle Worker, because somehow he managed to get us a reservation at Ko with apparent total ease: it was insane.
You may notice a distinct lack of photos here. Well, that’s due to Ko’s strict ‘no photography’ policy. But y’know, for once I didn’t mind, I was just really enjoying chatting to Ken and finally getting to spend some time together… and, er, getting drunk. As for the food? Well, it was good but it wasn’t amazing. Bit of a letdown, right? Maybe my expectations were too high but it just wasn’t as amazing as everybody seemed to say… but then I think it’s also because I didn’t eat the shaved frozen foie gras dish that apparently sets the meal apart. If you’re interested to see how this dish turned an entire meal around you should read Catty’s review from her time at Ko (she still has dreams about that dish, apparently).
Wait, backtrack, no foie gras? What is this madness? I got asked that question a lot as I was travelling. In case you don’t remember (or didn’t read it at the time), back in December I made the decision to not eat any more foie gras until I had discovered more about the process and whether or not there was a more humane way to have your foie and eat it too. At the moment I’ve set myself a target of discovery over a year and depending on how this goes I’ll make some decisions about what I choose to eat for myself. At the same time I’ve also decided to stop eating veal and shark’s fin, but I think these two will be permanently.
So how did the chefs, all of whom were working in front of me at Ko feel about me not eating the foie dish? Well they very gently tried to change my mind, but when it looked like I was going to stick to my guns, they then prepared an entire dish just to accommodate me. Isn’t that awesome? I did apologise for being a nuisance as they served me my foie-less dish, and the Cheeky Chef muttered, “yeah, you should be…” at me, though he was joking. Sort of. I also gave them a slice of the (delicious) cake Ken had given me, so I think they didn’t mind so much…?
And as for the no photos policy? Well after we left I snapped a couple through the door. The Cheeky Chef spotted me and gave me a very funny look, so I gave him a double-thumbs up and cheeky grin and he cracked up laughing at me. Win!
163 1st Ave
New York City NY
Eataly, The Museum of Sex & Other Adventures
One of the most touching emails I have ever received came from Celia a couple of nights before I was due to arrive in New York. She lived in the city, had somehow wound up following me on Twitter and had seen my plight for somewhere to sleep whilst I was in town. Though she couldn’t help due to unavailable space, she knew exactly how I felt and wanted to reach out to me, also wondered if I fancied getting together for some food whilst I was in town. Come on. How could I say no?!
As it turned out, we not only had lunch together at Eataly, we also visited the New York Museum of Sex (which is essentially a giant porn museum… with “facts” – but great fun!) and trekked out to Brooklyn in the rain to hit up The Brooklyn Kitchen, all the while getting along like a house on fire. Can you believe we’d only met a few hours previously? She was great fun, a total sweetheart and a blast to hang out with. Thanks Celia!
Sadly, though the food at Eataly isn’t that bad, it isn’t a fantastic dining spot. Backed by Mario Batali, it’s a huge place that is, unfortunately, flooded with tourists. As such, they do great business with not such great service, long wait times and overpriced products. As a place to shop, however: fantastic. I just really wouldn’t recommend eating there. Their fresh produce looked incredible, though.
200 5th Ave
New York City NY
Perhaps my favourite thing at The Brooklyn Kitchen was the wall for Single Foodies to match-up with one another via a brightly coloured form you could fill out with details of who you were, who you were looking for and what you’d like to cook for them/be cooked for. Great fun, no? The shop itself, whilst it is total hipster heaven (it is, after all, located in Williamsburg which is apparently Hipsterville), is fantastic with all manner of culinary goodies and tools, as well as regular classes to help develop skills in a multitude of areas. Definitely worth a visit, even if it is a bit of a trek!
The Brooklyn Kitchen
100 Frost Street
New York City NY
New York’s Blue Hill is a real institution, and somewhat of a mission to get to. I wandered around Greenwich Village for a good thirty minutes or so in the rain, having got lost and ended up on Washington Street instead of Washington Place which was quite in the opposite direction. Drenched from the rain, I finally found it and stumbled into Blue Hill, fighting with the heavy curtains that shielded the entrance, only to find myself in the middle of the restaurant, creating a small lake at my feet. I kid you not when I say the majority of the dining room turned around to stare at me, sodden through, shivering and resembling a drowned rat. I pushed my hair back off my face and quietly asked for the direction of the ladies’ room, where I literally peeled off layers of wet clothing and attempted to use a million tissues to dry myself off. It sort of worked, and after a short amount of time I found myself seated in the charmingly secluded garden area, waiting for my dining companions to join me.
Thank God that both the service and the food were astounding, because otherwise this could’ve been a really rather tainted meal, purely thanks to the weather. Both Ken and Margaret went for the Farmer’s Feast which I decided to forego due to the veal item on the menu, but their dishes looked amazing.
And can we talk for a minute about the various spreadables they gave us for the amazing bread batons? They gave us lardo. The sound I made when our server told us what was on offer, accompanied by the smile on my face, caused him to laugh and remark that I clearly knew my lardo! It was incredible, by the way. Absolutely outstanding. I couldn’t stop eating it!
Calf’s liver and kidney; milk-fed pig; honeycrisp apples.
Beetroot salad; fish course with razor clams; farm veal; fruit compote with a creamy base; chestnut and chocolate dessert.
In fact, the staff were so accommodating that when Jackie showed up towards the end of our meal (everybody had been a little late and we were planning on going to karaoke after dinner), they even gave her the pre-dessert dish as well. All round it was a lovely evening, though a little more on the pricey side.
Afterwards we went to Karaoke Boho and were joined by April and her man, which was completely hilarious and a million and one kinds of fun. We were the only ones in there, but had the staff all watching us, clapping and cheering, as well as singing a few songs of their own. Jackie and I (the two Jackies!) even did a little duet from Rent, which was really quite the sight/sound to behold, and April’s rendition of Madonna’s Like A Prayer with her name (“APRIIIL!”) thrown in after every, “when you call my name” was so hilarious I could barely breathe. Sorry, no photos or videos, but you’re probably thanking me for that one!
75 Washington Pl
New York City NY
186 W 4th St
New York City NY
My final lunch in New York was had with Ken, his friend Susan and Momma Lee at David Chang’s Ma Peche. I’m not actually as big a David Chang fan girl as I may appear, Ken had booked Ma Peche before he knew that I wanted to try and get into Ko, but as it turned out this meal was actually vastly superior (and significantly cheaper, but Ken was being naughty and insisted on paying – I get to treat you next time!). It was a real treat, all round. The star dish of the day was the sunchoke “salad” with lamb’s tongue which was one of the greatest things I’ve ever put into my mouth, but I don’t feel we ordered a single dish badly, which is really saying something.
Fluke tartare; beef tartare; duck confit bahn mi; house special bahn mi; brisket with rice noodles; sunchoke “salad” with lamb’s tongue; pork ribs.
Momma Lee even had a little present for Ken…
Definitely a place I would recommend and revisit: an absolute joy.
15 W 56th St
New York City NY
Orient-Express & The Spotted Pig
For our last evening in New York, Momma Lee and I wanted to try out The Spotted Pig in the West Village. The New York gastropub had first come to my attention when I had heard tale of their famed gnudi, similar to gnocchi but made with ricotta and guaranteed to be pillowy and creamy in a way that gnocchi seldom is. With no reservations allowed, we showed up around 7pm and were told that we were looking at an hour’s wait, which, apparently, is not all that bad at all. We put our names in and decided to head up the street to find a bar to kill some time at: Orient-Express was that bar.
With a distinctly sexy and moody feel, as well as two dashing bartenders who mixed up all manner of drinks (though, sadly, they were all out of tomato juice so no Bloody Mary for me), it was the perfect place to while away an hour or so though not all that cheap. Still, great fun and yes, for a short amount of time I did pretend that I was a super secret British spy who worked at MI5, having a quiet drink in New York and waiting for my contact to show up. What can I say? I’m a dreamer. And did I mention they have metal straws?! That blew my mind.
325 W 11th St
New York City NY
After our drinks we headed back over to The Spotted Pig, where we were seated promptly and given menus to peruse. The servers were extremely busy but very friendly and fun and the prices didn’t look too bad. We made our selections and after a short amount of time our food arrived.
I think perhaps we over-ordered, as most people around us seemed to be sharing their plates, whereas we had opted for two of the ‘platters’ – the crispy pig’s ear salad which was incredible and the famed gnudi which I loved – for starters (which we did share, but still, that’s two large plates), followed by two entrees (the oxtail and mash – filling and comforting – and the crispy pork belly – gooey and succulent), but we finished every morsel on our plates. The server even remarked that we were having more food, to which I thought, ‘heck yes! Bring it on!’
Despite the fact that you cannot make reservations and you’re looking at a minimum hour’s wait, I think this was totally worth it and worth the hype. It’ll become a definite spot for me to return to. I think it’s safe to say that this was one of my favourite meals of the trip, in fact I still daydream about that pig’s ear salad…
The Spotted Pig
314 W 11th St #1
New York City NY
At this point I’d like to give a special mention to Jackie and her family, who kept me out of the rain and entertained for an evening whilst I was waiting for Fiona to finish up at work. Truly one of the most spectacular people I’ve ever met, she was so incredibly hospitable and fun – thanks for letting me hang out with you all! Her baby niece is also one of the cutest little things I’ve ever seen: she told me she loved me after spending about three hours with her, all because I read her a story. It just breaks your heart, don’t it?
And finally, a short video I made to the 30 Rock theme tune – why not?
And so we reach the end of The Big Adventure. It was a whirlwind tour through many of the world’s greatest cities, but it gave me a taste for more. A huge, enormous thank you to all of the wonderful people who hosted me along the way, and all of the incredible people I met. It may sound a little sappy but it made me feel incredibly loved and blessed – I can’t quite express how it has affected and changed me, so just know that I love and thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I truly mean that.
So then all that remains to say is that I’ll be back. I promise. Until then, peace and love.
The Big Adventure
Hallo Hong Kong-Ah
Hong Kong, Take 2
Bye-Bye Hong Kong, Hello Sydney
Ain’t No Sunshine When I’m Gone
Notes From A Small Island
The Land That Stole A Little Piece of My Heart
The Great Burger Mission: Portlandia
Blowin’ It Up, Seattle Style
Anybody Seen My Heart?
Stay Classy, San Diego
This Hurr’s Texas – Yeehaw!
Welcome Ta Chicago
Mhm, I Loves Me Some Boston
The Beginning of The End: New Jersey