i love new york (no, not the show)

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chinese food, french cooking, pastry, pies and tarts, reviews, sushi, travel and musings

Oh, New York City at Christmas time, especially when it snows, just makes a girl glow with happiness. What a workout for our feet, and not to mention our wallets. Mr.S and I hit the city two weeks back for some holiday mayhem, and catching, just in time, the first snow of the season. At the end of the day, we rode the train back to Baltimore, tired and sore, only to be faced with 4 inches of ice and snow piled up on my car! No matter, since we returned with a fine collection of loot, treasures from our favorite stores…here is a quick rundown of what’s on our NYC hotlist:

For a small space, Kid Robot packs a big punch. It’s a unique toy store that carries vinyls and collectables, figurines and imports. We always walk out with a bagful of blind-box toys. I love the Ugly Dolls. Celebrity sighting #1: Timothy Roth.

French clothier A.P.C. is minimal with clean and classic silhouettes. Mr.S raves about their durable and well-fitted denim. I have my eye on a navy wool capelet and a belted white trench coat. Their Soho store is their first in the U.S.

I am in awe of Uniqlo, a Japanese H&M-like, but more upscale store. They are not afraid to use color and bold shapes, and are always on the cutting edge of what is trendy, with this season being skinny tapered jeans (of all sizes and washes) and oversize cashmere sweaters. The best deal ever: FREE tailoring and alterations, ready for you within an hour!

Mr.S adores Japanese import MUJI, a lifestyle store (once only available at the MoMA Store) that boasts a simple, minimalist design in the truest Japanese ways on everything from stationery to housewares to cotton tees to furniture. Everything is simple and functional, with clean lines. Check out the porcelain noodle bowls and soy sauce dispensers, perfect for a dinner of hot soba soup.

Next door to Muji is CB2, otherwise known as Crate and Barrel 2, a younger, hipper, even more affordable version of its original counterpart. Adorable design meets functionality, meets well, damn cheap pricetags! I walked out with olive platters, crescent-shaped appetizer plates, and simple porcelain oblong trays.

Who doesn’t love ultra-trendy sportswear with an 80’s gym-like flair? Co-owned by actor Jason Lee, WESC stands for WE are a Superlative Conspiracy. You’ll find many an urban-chic sweatshirt, logo-emblazoned, and filmy tees with geometric designs and textiles.

And next door to WESC is Supreme, a small skate and bike shop with hard to find designer Nikes and one-of-a-kind boards. Definitely a boys club of sorts. Mr.S had his eye on a pair of gold Oakley Frogskins.

Even better than Sur la Table! And that’s saying alot. I love Broadway Panhandler mecca for an emerging young chef or baker. In my cart at the end of the night were French casserole dishes, an egg topper, a slurry of miniature fluted pastry molds, uniquely shaped for its amazing selection of everything-you-would-ever-need cooking and baking supplies. A true cookie cutters, ring molds, loaf pans, and gold and silver leaf. Next time, I will go back for the Global cleaver and magnetic knife rack….drool. Note: BP has moved from Soho to the East Village. We mistakenly went to the original location…but we did find Celebrity sighting #2: Willam Dafoe.

Think eclectic, homey, upscale comfort food. Prune is the mastermind of chef … , a collection of meals and dishes from her childhood, radishes with butter, roasted marrow, golden merveilles. I love quirky, heart-warming eateries that are innovative without trying so hard.

I was cold and hungry, and Balthazar provided a warm haven for lunch. Alas, it was not to be, since the Wednesday lunch wait was 2.5 hours! We walked away sad and disappointed, with the lingering image of golden pan-fried skate with brown butter and hazelnuts, and warm frites on our minds.

And so we stumbled upon another little treasure around the corner, the French Culinary Institute Restaurant, a teaching restaurant for the students in training of the famed school. The menu changes daily, with traditional and contemporary French dishes. The amuse bouche was a bite-size crabcake with a nice remoulade. I ordered the poached cod with braised leeks and smoked cod cheeks. The technique was perfect, but overall the spices and salt somewhat restrained, as the fish was merely bathed in cream…how very French. Mr.S had the pan-seared pork chop with roasted tomatoes and wilted spinach. Good, but yet again, very much “culinary school”-esque.

My favorite bakery in Chinatown is Fay Da Bakery. I have an ongoing list of pastries to try, but some must-haves are chestnut buns, cha shao (roast pork) buns, flaky taro pastry balls, coconut and green tea mochi balls, pineapple kaya buns, and all the bubble teas.

For dinner, Mr.S took me to Haru, a popular sushi spot with a few locations through out the city. Celebrity sighting #3: The Apprentice’s Carolyn Kepcher. The lychee cocktail is a classic. The crispy duck appetizer could have been crispier, but still quite good, with a flavorful teriyaki-hoisin sauce over soft pancakes. The generous cuts of sashimi are fresh and well worth the price. The wait staff is attentive and a trip, our server was a young Laotian man who went by the nickname Captain Jack Sparrow.

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