Monday, January 31, 2011

Photos from New York

Here is an album of Photos from New York. They're in a random order until I get better internet connection.

Last two days in New York

In the interests of calling this trip to New York a business trip, I decided to make my way this morning to Kitchen Arts & Letters, apparently the pre-eminent cookbook store in New York (some say the US). I got there early so (also in the interests of research for ummm Cake Committee?) I stopped in at the Crumbs cupcake and bake shop for breakfast. Crumbs is one of a large chain, and despite its pretty fitout and displays of nice baked goods, the muffin I had tasted cake-y and mass-produced. It has been the thing I have noticed most about food in New York: It seems that as soon as anyone has a succesful individual food store/restaurant/bakery or sees the success of someone else's, the first impulse is to open a chain of them or start franchising the concept. In my (humble) opinion, the product suffers from having to be produced to a uniform standard. The best food I had in New York was the food I that had been produced individually - Katz's deli where the pastrami for your sandwich is cut from the hunk of pastrami to order by your server. Sometimes this means you end up with a hunk of gristle or fat (and I have been told the fat is the good part!) but for the most part the sandwich is the better for it. At Zabar's bakery, the danish looks a lot more rustic than at some of the chain bakeries, but it also looks a lot more appetising and like it has been made by a person and not a machine. I think that's why I so enjoyed Bonnie's food tour, all the shops we visited were stand alone, and the closest they came to mass production was that the Yonah Shimmel supplies its Knishes to some delis and bakeries. And the donuts from the Donut Factory are sold at a couple of other outlets. And what was also notable about the places we visited (and the ones I visited on snow day) was that the owner was usually in attendance and they were staffed by people who had a pride in their product and had often been working there for years (decades in many cases).
Anyway enough of my own personal soap box. The only thing I took out of the Crumbs experience was the 'colossal cupcakes' they sold. Boy what a great birthday cake they would make!

So by now Kitchen Arts and Letters had opened and I spent an enjoyable half hour checking out their selection of new books. They have a tiny section of out-of-print (2 shelves) but I did pick up a couple of Russian cookbooks and also some purchases for myself - a book called "Save the Deli" on (you guessed it) Jewish Delicatessens and another on the radio cooking shows of the early twentieth-century in America. K A & L had a very impressive collection of food history titles which is something I'd like to expand in the shop, and I think in some cases I'll have to resort to buying new to provide the variety. However I came away feeling that our own Books for Cooks in Melbourne does new cookbooks much better (Tim is twice as big for a start) and visiting the shop wasn't the friendly experience I had at Bonnie's and I hope people have when they come into my shop.

Back on the subway to ride down to Canal Street which is notorious for it's counterfeited handbags and jewellery. On the way my mariachi band reappeared! Well A mariachi band appeared. They looked like different guys this time and I suspect they're a little like the Chilean bands that seem to spring up at every outdoor market in Australia (another franchise perhaps?)

I spent all of ten minutes at Canal Street before decideing it wasn;t my scene and decided instead to walk over to the Brooklyn Bridge which was ( kind of ) nearby. The walk was cold and at times a little difficult to negotiate because of the piles of snow which had accumulated. It took aout an hour to walk from Canal Street and over the bridge, with a couple of stops to ooh and aah (internally - travelling on your own means that these kind of spots require some restraint to avoid people thinking you're a crazy!)

I got a little lost trying to find a pizzeria which had been recommended to me by a Brooklyn local in of all places a Madison Avenue watch shop. When I finally found Grimaldi's it was clear that it had become a spot in the tourist guides. There was a line of people waiting outside in the cold and checking out the prices ( and the fact that they don;t sell slices ?!?) I decided that it wasn't worth wait in cold wet boots (there seemd to be more of those corner puddles in Brooklyn than Manhattan).
So instead I caught a subway back to Astor Place and took a long snowy walk to Bonnie's stopping on the way for lunch at "Bruce's - Baker to the Stars" (don't ask me, that's what the place was called, with no evidence of any stars) where when you order even the smallest toasted sandwich they present you with a sample basket of their baked goods - which I got them to put in a doggy bag for Bonnie (and Abrahamn Lincoln).
Saturday 29th:
The most notable discovery of my last day in new York was that I have reached that certain age- this morning as I took a last look around New York, a young man on the subway got up and offered me his seat!! I tried to be gracious, but was mourning inside!!
I paid a flying visit to Ellis Island, passing by the Statue of Liberty on the way. One interesting thing of note on hte ferries out to the isalnds and back was that the maritime workers must be some kind of closed union shop - for the first time in New York, every accent I heard among the men working on them was a broad New York accent, of the kind you hear in the movies, and of the kind I had heard very little of in new York.

I also decided to visit the World Trade Centre museum, as it was very close to the ferry. I had made a decision early on that I wouldn;t go to Ground Zero, I feel too much like it would be an intrusion.  I'm not sure I gained anything from the visit, it had me in tears, and I did feel as if I was intruding. I was also taken aback to see men on the street corners offering 'souvenirs' of September 11.

SO that was New York. I'm now back in my lovely (big) hotel room in San Francisco with a glorious view of the city and the bay (and it's own bathroom) and spending a rainy San Francisco day catching up on sleep, washing, business and blogging in that order. The flight back was a bit of a nightmare - who knew that a 4 1/2 hour flight one way could become a 6 1/2 hour on return? I've got a few things planned for San Francisco (well for me in San Francisco) mostly about book-buying but also a few food ventures down to the Mission district and also to see if there are any New York style delicatessens in the city.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Photos from snow day

I've been having problems incorporating photos into my blog so here are some from Thursday

- Lox and cream cheese bagel at Barney Greengrass the Aturgeon King.


Pickles at Zabar's

Meuviel Copper Pans (drool):

Little House on the Prairie icecream makers:

One of the bakeries:

Snail Shells - pretty!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Snow Day in New York, Zabars, Barney Greengrass and kitchens

After yesterday's snow storm, New York woke up snowbound. Morning tv shows were telling me that New York has broken snow records this winter, and yesterday there was 15 inches. Plans to go bookbuying in New Jersey were abandoned and I instead stepped out to spend a day checking things off the list. It turned out to be a really great day. The city looked magical, particularly because it wasn't actively snowing and there seemed to be a holiday atmosphere in the air. Negotiating the street crossings became the most difficult part of negotiating the snow. On roads where the snow ploughs had been, they created huge drifts of snow on the side of the road which over the day melted leaving often huge puddles right at the corner. Sometimes the surface of the puddles would be covered in a layer of floating grit which makes it looks like a solid surface- and you get the idea, you step on it and end up with water above your ankles!!!

Snow ploughs at the corner of 5th Avenue.

My first stop for the day was the Met. It backs on to Central Park and because it had been declared a snow day, there were groups of excited kids (& adults) carrying every variety of toboggan and snowboards.

I was very tempted to skip the museum and just go straight to the park, but I had a plan for the day. I was glad I did go in as they have an impressive American history display of house interiors and furnishings from the pilgrims through to the early 20th century. It is housed behind the facade of an early 19th century home which was transferred to the museum.

There was also an incredible collection of suits of armour

After a visit to the gift shop I finally got to Central Park (passing a great little cupcakes food truck on the way)

Just behind the Met is a hill which was crowded with kids tobogganing and building snowmen. 2 kids had set up a stand selling hot chocolate - very enteprising!

I think Central Park has been my favourite part of New York. It is such a wonderful public space in the middle of this huge busy city. Today it was much busier than on my previous visit, but even more magical with all the snow:

More tobogganers:

I walked across the park and headed to another New York institution: Barney Greengrass- the self-proclaimed Sturgeon King. One room was like a more disorganised and cluttered version of yesterday's Russ and Daughters: all sorts of smoked and pickled goods, a selection if baked goods and a few tables set up in the middle of the room. The room next door is a small dining room with a menu mostly of sandwiches and tasting plates of the delicacies on offer next door. I ordered a Lox and cream cheese in an 'everything' bagel (all the toppings- poppy seeds sesame seeds, salt and some dried onion)My waiter suggested having it with tomato and onion which was inspired, adding some crunch and sharpness to the creamy, smoky filling. Once again at $12.95 plus a tip it wasn't cheap, and I discovered I could have ordered it next door for much less. You live and learn!

My next stop had been recommended by Simon- A customer in Bonnie's shop on Sunday night & boy what a great tip. Zabar's is two stores in one; on the ground floor is yet another deli along the usual lines except 5 times as big as any I've been to so far. In addition to the usual deli goods they have a large section of coffees, several bakeries, a huge cheese section, a takeaway shop and much more. Upstairs is a kitchen supplies department. As with the downstairs sections, they have everything you can imagine, but on a large scale. Not just one set of kitchen scales, but a whole aisle end of about 25 different models; more than 10 models of icecream  makers, including three of  the handcranked salt models you would see in an episode of Little House on the Prairie!

There were fish poachers, Mauviel copper pans in every size; Le Creuset in all the colours including tems I didn't even know existed like a mussel pot. I had a ball at Zabar's, but came away only with a small quiche for tonight's dinner and a can of a soda Bonnie introduced me too in Katz's yeterday - it's called Cel-Ray and you've guessed it, it tastes llike celery. It is possibly the most revolting drink I've ever had, but my son Jonathan is amused by unusual flavoured drinks so I thought he would get a kick out of it. (Act surprised Jono!)

I had one more stop after Zabar's - to MOMA to check out their exhibition of their kitchen-related objects in the collection. It was a small but perfectly-formed (or  curated) exhibit. I was particularly interested in the working model of the Frankfurt Kitchen from the 1920s. I trudged back to the hotel from MOMA - quite a hike, through lots of crossings with impassable puddles, and got back with wet feet and a little of the charm of snow day having rubbed off. Tomorrow - who knows what I'll do!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Kasha Knish at Yonah Shimmel, and other food adventures in the Lower East Side

Well I had been anticipating snow and today I got snow, inches and inches of it. In the morning as I had my breakfast I took a photo of a little red scooter that is always parked at the top of my street (I guess it's not really scooter weather!) This morning it was completely covered in snow.

This was the day for my food and bookshop tour of the East Village and Lower East Side with Bonnie and we soldiered on through it - wading through snow-covered sidewalks splashing through slushy puddles and walking head down as it snowed on us!

I met Bonnie at Strand Books (no new purchases from there) and we headed off to three local secondhand booksellers in the area. Bonnie was the perfect host and there was no elbowing for access to the cookbook shelves! I picked up a couple of excellent preserving books and some Eastern European cookbooks that are so hard to find in Australia. We also paid a visit to the Housing Works Bookshop. Housing Works provides housing for people with AIDS and they have a really great bookshop with good quality stock as well as a nice cafe up the back of the store. Books are reasonably priced and there were a couple of treasures for Bonnie and I. Bookbuying behind us, we headed off on the serious business of the day, a tour of some of Bonnie's favourite local specialty food shops, ending with a trip to Katz Delicatessen, recommended by just about every tour guide for a taste of an old fashioned New York deli.

First stop was at Yosha Shimmel for a Knish. Bonnie used to come here with her Dad when they came to New York from New Jersey. We were pacing ourselves and split a kasha knish which is made from buckwheat and eaten with lots of mustard. It was a first time for me, and my best description for it would be that it is dumpling-like, soft but dense and warming - perfect comfort food for a snow day. The shop is in original condition, complete with the dumb waiter that brings the many varieties of knishes up from the basement kitchen:

Next stop was just a few doors down at Russ and Daughters (although no daughters were in attendance yesterday) This 'awesome' delicatessen is an Aladdin's cave of smoked fish, caviars, cheese spreads of every sort, barrels of pickles, pickled fish etc.

After leaving this wonderland, we headed off on a tour of the neighbourhood, including a stretch which used to be populated by fabric and dress shops as well as lingerie shops where apparently (according to the local expert) the old Jewish proprietors can size you up for a new bra just by looking at you (with clothes on!).

We also passed through the edges of what used to be known as Little Italy, but which is slowly being encroached upon by Chinatown.

Other food stops along the way included the Donut Factory, where I sampled a creme brulee donut and picked up a Meyer Lemon donut for Bonnie's friend Chris who minded the store so we could play.(Unfortunately my Iphone managed to delete a lot of my photos from today. I've got others on my camera, but haven't been able to download them due to very slow wireless at the hotel)

A little bakery a few doors down supplied a bagel to go with my smoked sabel and cream cheese for the next morning's breakfast. We headed over to another bakery for more Jewish specialties including what Bonnie called a bell - a small cake with a spongebase, a ground poppyseed filling in a chocolate shell - it had an unusual, almost marzipan-like flavour. As we arrived at the shop school was letting out across the road, and behind us came mums with kids to buy after-school treats. Two old men were in serious conversation with the young Orthodox man behind the counter - it turned out he was showing one of them how to use a large-numbered mobile phone. As he turned to leave one of the old men said to Bonnie and I - "you see that man? He is a good man. Do you know why? Because he is my friend" It was very sweet, the closest an elderly Jewish man could come to saying "I love you man".

By now dusk was closing in and we headed over for a quick look around the Essex Market ( artisan cheese stands alongside a huge Hispanic grocery) before visiting Economy Candy - a huge shop with floor to ceiling shelves and bins of candies of every description- old-fashioned American favourites that are now apparently hard to come by, English specialties, a wall of jelly-bellies, I even found some lollies I remember from my childhood: Sen-Sen, Chiclets and chocolate cigarettes among them. The sweet smell of candy was everywhere and the shop was packed with people stocking up. Like most of the other stores, Mr Economy Candy was in attendance.

Our final stop, Katz's Delicatessen is a New York institution and Bonnie had saved it for last. As we walked in to the sawdust-covered room we were handed a number and made our way to the long counter stretching the length of the room. Behind each station a man would serve you and writte the total on the ticket which was presented to teh cashier as we left. Bonnie bought us a hot dog with sauerkraut to split while we checked out the other goodies. The pastrami man gave us samples of his wares as he prepared our enormous pastrami on rye sandwich (at $14.95 it was pricey, but tradition doesn;t come cheap!).

Loaded down with goodies, dead on our feet and very cold, we decided to catch a cab back to Bonnie's shop to relieve Chris and split our pastrami on rye, sample chocolate cigarettes and baked goods and (for me) buy some more cookbook treasures from Bonnie's shelves.  Having decided that taxis are the way to go I caught one back to the hotel. Snow was falling quite heavily and the streets were becoming increasingly covered, making thecab slide a bit on the roads, so I was quite glad to get back to my small warm room.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

18 miles of books (& almost as many of tunnels)

This has been one of those days where, despite checking some of the things on that list, I don't feel like I achieved much. After a very ordinary breakfast at the chain health food restaurant Natureworks across from my hotel, I paid a visit to the famous Strand Books. Snow was falling and around every corner there seemed to be a bakery tempting me to abandon my journey (Why I thought scrambled eggs made only of egg whites would taste of anything I have no idea, but I feel I should get points for trying to eat healthy right?)

Strand Books bills itself as having 18 miles of books on it's four levels. I only made it to the 1/4 mile of cookbooks, and didn't go too mad, picking up a couple of copies of My Life in France by Julia Child which are on the wants list for customers, and a nice paperback on molecular gastronomy.

I had planned a trip to MOMA for their kitchen exhibition, but wouldn't you know it they're closed on a Tuesday. It's actually quite hard to be an early-rising tourist in New York. As I have discovered, most museums and shops don't open until 10.30/11. This turned out not to be a problem when I decided to go the American Natural History Museum, as I spent close to 30 mins on various subways to get there. The thing about New York ( well Manhattan more specifically) public transport is that there are lots of intersecting lines going across and up & down and sometimes to get to where you need to you have to catch, in my case today, three different trains. And swapping between the two is no easy matter, with tunnels leading you what feels like miles up stairs down ramps, around corners. It gets so that by the time you get out of there you barely know which way is up, let alone North South East or West- the absolute essentials if you want to get around!! Aaaanyway my convoluted subway journey eventually brought me back to Central Park, with a fresh dusting of snow:

The Museum was full of excited kids and after a cursory look around, I decided that I couldn't be bothered and got BACK on the subway to head over to Bryant Park and the New York Public Library.

The Bryant Park Iceskating rink is overlooked by a row of lovely early 20th century buildings:

The library is a real treat, very traditional, and even better, free wifi!

So a couple of things ticked off, it was off next to queue for half-price theatre tickets on Times Square. When you step away from the glitz and neon,on a few of the streets you can still get a feeling for what the district used to look like, with lots of theatres still maintaining their old facades:

I got what I came for: tickets to see La Cage aux Folles, and then headed to the Roxy Diner on Times Square for a late lunch. In the interests of research and trying local foods I ordered Matzo Ball Soup:

and a huge slice of New York Cheesecake ( Jonathan & Hayley's is better). The best thing about the soup was it was warm!

On the way back to the hotel (via Madison Ave for some shopping) I walked through the Diamond District. What a sight! Every shop in the street was jewellery related and in front of EVERY one was one or two guys shouting 'We buy gold and diamonds' or variations thereof. Ocasionally one would say as I walked past 'You buying today ma'am?' - I wish! They reminded me of nothing so much as the touts in Las Vegas who line the thoroughfares shoving handbills in your face for strippers and 'escorts'.

The best part of my day came at the end of it. Having freshened up, put my gladrags on & caught my first New York taxi, I headed back to Times Square, now all lit up as required:

The show was amazing- packed house in an intimate space with incredible performances by most of the cast. This is one of the things on my list I'll be checking off twice!

Off to the East Village for a tour of bookshops and food with Bonnie today- should be fun!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Grand Central, pastrami on rye & spectacular views

First stop this morning was Grand Central Station for breakfast. What a stunning building it is. Completely dwarfed by surrounding skyscrapers, and apparently saved from the same fate by Jackie Onassis, you don't really realize until you enter the main hall how huge it is. The fascinating thing about the space though is how it absorbs sound and despite the high ceilings and marble cladding, it is quite a peaceful space, even at 9.30 on a weekday morning. The dining hall is a very democratic space with transients seeking shelter from the coldest morning of this winter, some snoozing in the comfortable armchairs, others rifling through the bins for recyclables and scraps. But there are also business men grabbing a coffee or, as at the table nextto mine, talking real estate and doing deals. And then of course there are the nosy tourists Luke me!! Last night at Bonnie's I bought a guide to NY markets and I wasted a subway travelling to Union Square where the best green market is except apparently not in the winter.

One of the highlights of the day came on the subway on the way up to Central Park. A Mariachi band jumped on at one stop, played a cheeky version of Guantanamera and jumped off at the next stop before I had time to pull out my wallet (& probably before they were thrown off!) Everyone in the crowded carriage studiously looked down, but it gave me the giggles!

Another highlight was Central Park. I entered at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onnasis Reservoir, which was stunning under its cover of snow and ice:

It was another of those spots I had read so much about, but which in 'person' exceeded all expectations. In the middle of this huuuge busy city there was only a handful of die-hard locals and determined tourists on the paths. It was quiet, white and peaceful. I walked down to the south-eastern corner, stopping to watch squirrels, a Mum taking her toddlers down a slope on a toboggan, a family building snowmen in the middle of a meadow,and ice-skaters on the pond and then bought a pretzel outside the gate opposite the Apple store & FAO Schwarz and started heading down towards Eisenberg's for lunch. (As an aside I have found the famed 'street food' of New York disappointing and pretty uninspiring. Perhaps I'm only seeing the 'touristy ones' and should get off the beaten track - or on Twitter - to find them).

After a stop at the Rockefeller Centre with its spectacular views and amazing concourses, I headed to Eisenberg's for lunch. This had been recommended by the New York Times food critic Sam Sifton as a spot for history buffs who wanted a taste of old-style New York diners. I sat down for the obligatory Pastrami on Rye and something called a chocolate egg cream which it turns out is not a milkshake but instead a combination of chocolate syrup, milk and soda water - not sure where the egg is.
I was amused to hear a local comment to the owner ( who I have discovered in this and other diners always stand at the door to meet and greet and seldom move from there) why it was busy. The answer 'that guy from the New York Times Sam something or other recommended it' My opinion of it? Meh. I think I could get better food elsewhere. The pastrami was a bit greasy and the rye bread was too skinny to hold it in. Pickles were good though. The sign outside the door said it all: 'Eisenberg's, you either get it or you don't'

Back on a subway after lunch to head back up to the Empire State Building observatory. The great thing about being in New York at this time is there have been no lines to get into any of the sights. The entry hall to the Empire State is huge and I can just imagine what the lines must be like to require that many acres of space and red velvet rope.
It was well worth the $30-odd to get this perspective on the city. As we got onto the lift for the 87 floor ride we were accompanied by the maroon liveried staff for a change of shift. These guys had balaclavas and gloves and scarves and some wise-ass guest said "where you headed? Alaska?" The guard's deadpan muffled response? "You'll get it" and boy did he get it, we all did. It was right before sunset and the wind chill factor must have made it several degrees below zero. I stayed up there until after the sun set and then went up to the 107th floor (enclosed) observatory for a final look around. Now I'm in the ever-present and reliable Starbucks warming up with a white chocolate macchiato and faster wireless than I have at the hotel. Tomorrow is apparently gong to be a wet one, so a day for the library, a couple of museums and another venture into Macy's. It's a tough job but someone's gotta do it.

Views from the Empire State

View from the Rockefeller
Lunch at Eisenberg's

Checking off the list

It's not quite a bucket list, but after years of reading the New York Times and seeing the city itself in the popular culture I have been consuming most of my life, there were things I wanted to do and yesterday was a day of ticking off the list and also making new discoveries.First stop was breakfast at the diner around the corner from my hotel "Hotel 31" not a spectaularly good one, so it won't be my local wihle I'm here. I then walked across town -about 4kms - a meandering route with lots of snow and an icy wind. It continues to be very cold - I don't mind the cold and am well rugged up, but find it impossible to find a way to keep my face warm!! And its one of those things about being a stranger to this kind of weather - the sun is shining and I expected I'd get warmer as I walked, but instead I just got colder and colder, even in the sun! I saw the Empire State again, walked down Broadway (wow this is Broadway - it's a bit tatty down this end) My destination was the flea markets the Lonely Planet had recommended in Chelsea. I had planned a couple of hours there but was out in 10 minutes - must be too cold for lots of stall holders.
The Chelsea food markets were a different story, lots of 'artisanal' food shops in a gorgeous old re-purposed warehouse space.
There was even an Aussie pie stall call Tuck Shop, he wasn't open when I was there, but I can tell you that every Australian food cliche you've ever thought of was there. Lamingtons ($2) Pie Floaters, beef Pies, etc etc.
I had a warming latte and an

almond french toast (a little like Phillipa's Pain Perdu) and enjoyed window shopping the soup kitchen, seafood stores and more.
Following the interlude at the markets, I headed for the High Line, an abandoned elevated railway line which has been turned into a fantastic park and open space, with great views of the Hudson River and the old meatpacking district, which is a muddled combination of the original meat processing factories and alamai makers one one side and the upmarket brands like Stella McCartney and flash restaurants like Collichio and Sons. I think its a bit sad, but some people eould probably call it progress. There was also a cute littel ice-skating rink about the size of a loungeroom with little kids spinning around with flair.
I ticked off another item on the list - catching a subway- to get to the Staten Island Ferry ( another on the list) and took the one hour ferry to Staten Island and back for an amazing view of the Statue of Liberty. I braved the cold on the outside deck to take photos (will post later). Another long walk, this time from Union Square subway station back up to my hotel, via the popular Shake Shack in Madison Square Park for a piddly little hot dog eaten with an accompaniment of cheeky squirrels underneath the heaters.

The highlight of my first full day in New York was my visit to Bonnie Slotnick Coobooks. Bonnie has kindly been emailing me with advice about my visit and I stopped by to check out the shop (gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous) and ended up spending three hours there, with a couple of great customers and a tiny dog called Abraham Lincoln whom Bonnie is babysitting. Like most dogs, Abraham Lincoln took a dislike to me, growling anytime I came within a few feet of him. Anyway the shop is filled with treasures and Bonnie is a charming and very knowledgeable bookseller. I'm looking forward to a trip to New Jersey with her later this week to check out some bookshops, and she's promised me an eating tour of the East Village as well. I can't wait.

Today I'm off to Grand Central markets and the station itself to tick off another thing on the list. Also will heading up to Central Park and the Times Square area for a wander.. It is going to be the coldest day so far of winter, so it should be fun(!) I'm squeezing these things in now because forecasts are for sleet and snow for the three subsequent days, when I'll do all the indoor things on the list.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Of cold, iconic landmarks and old hotels

Tonight I'm in New York and feeling my way around a new city very different from the familiar ( & warmer) San Francisco. First impressions were great- approaching JFK as the sun set and seeing that famous skyline in the distance,I couldn't help but feel a frisson of anticipation and excitement (I planned this leg mostly because my family said " You can't keep going back to America and not visit New York!) Two hours in a shuttle bus later, looking at traffic, piles of garbage and grimy banks of snow, I was less impressed. My hotel is an old-school shared bathroom building with food smells in the halls and a very old cage lift which trapped my finger as I struggled to keep it open to get my bags on board. But I've begun to warm up to the city ( figuratively at least): popping out to get a bottle of water from the corner store in the evening I looked up and saw, quite close by, the top of the Chrysler Building. I started to walk toward it and after a couple blocks, as I crossed a street, glanced to my left and saw rising up above the rows of 19th century townhouses the top of the Empire State Building. It brought a grin to my face- that's the Empire State Building!! The thing about seeing these two iconic buildings in real life was that as much as they are cliched landmarks, if you can strip away the tacky tourist shops and brand stores in your mind's eye, they are spectacularly beautiful deco buildings in their own right (and surrounded by smaller, unknown buildings of the same era which are just as impressive).
One problem with impromptu
night-time hikes though- a couple of hours later in my super-heated room, lmy legs and face are still icy to touch- must remember never to go out without my thermals and a hat and scarf!!

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Location:New York, New York

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Aussie invasion

One big problem with the States at the moment: too many Aussies! Sitting down to lunch at The Cheesecake Factory on the top floor of Macy's (soup and salad hold the cheesecake for me)I could have been back in Melbourne, with the broad accents emanating from two tables. I heard them on the cable car that afternoon, in the lift this morning, and according to a lot of shop assistants we're buying up big all over town. Later in Walgreens looking for gloves, two blokes come towards me: "Nah mate- just buy a whole lotta t-shirts then ya got no washin'" & with the price of many things so much cheaper, and the AUD close to parity, it seems we're all doing that over here.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tacos are not crunchy!

Yes I already knew this, but just for those who've only ever eaten a taco in Australia, this is a taco: a soft handmade corn tortilla with spicy flavoursome fillings, two in fact: a taco de carnitas (braised pork) and a taco de carne asada ( grilled beef) Washed down with a honeydew aqua fresca on the ferry terminal plaza. For your own taste try Mamasita in Collins St Melbourne- crazy busy, but just as good as these (although not $4 a serve, more like $14)

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Location:Mijita Cocina Mexicana Ferry Terminal San Francisco

Hopeless romantic

A friend, who shall remain nameless, accused me of being a romantic because of my affection for San Francisco and my desire, during my regular visits, to live as a local. Well guilty as charged: because as I drive in from the ( clean efficient) SFO in a shuttle driven by a prosyletising Buddhist I DO feel a little like you do when you're on your way to meet someone special that you haven't seen for a long time. The sky is blue, the air crisp and while ( as with all homecomings) I had forgotten the seediness and shabbiness of parts of the city, I do feel at home. The plane flight over had nothing to commend it aside from my seat buddy, 84 year old Peg who travels to all sorts of out-of-the way and exotic places (this time NZ!) from her home 150 miles north of San Francisco. I have an invitation to 'drop in' if I'm up that way - and I think I'll take her up on it!

So off now to find a taqueria for lunch, and early to bed. Here's the view from my balcony:

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Location:San Francisco, CA

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Back in the saddle again

Well I'm off again - heading to the US for what I think the pollies call an 'education trip'. I'll be buying books of course, but also visiting several cookbooks shops in New York and California to see how they do business. I'm looking forward to catching up with Bonnie Slotnick in New York, whose Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in Greenwich Village has something of a cult following. I'm also visiting the authoritative 'Kitchen Arts and Letters' and hope to drop in on Joanne Hendricks Cookbooks, also in Greenwich. In California there is the relatively new Omnivore Books in San Francisco, which  has the enviable position of being associated with kitchen supply stores Sur le Table. As always I'll be blogging my travels, food adventures and discoveries here.

While I'm away the shop will be open Fridays and Saturdays from 11 -3, except for Friday January 21st, when it will be closed. My patient spouse David is also happy to open the shop by prior arrangement - weekends are best, but weekdays can also be organised. Give him a call on 0418 329 527 if you need a fix!