Archive for the United States of America Category

New York – Brooklyn – Williamsburg

Posted in Brooklyn, United States of America, Williamsburg on January 23, 2017 by gannet39

Williamsburg has come on a lot since I first visited it in 2006. Back then it was the newly fledged bohemian area and it seems to have come on by leaps and bounds. Again, there are plenty of other good places, but these are a few that I experienced on a short trip.

The famous Brooklyn Brewery at 79 N 11th St has a large beer hall where you can sample their wares.


Fette Sau (Intermediate A), 354 Metropolitan Avenue,

This is a great place for BBQ aficionados, the kind of place I wish I’d opened. It’s canteen style so after waiting in a queue (only a painless quarter of an hour for us) you take a tray and move along the line choosing what you want to eat.

You can pick from a list of roasted meats which are priced by the kilo and weighed out according to your hunger. Next you choose your sides, and then a drink from the craft beer bar before taking a seat at one of the shared picnic tables, either inside or out.


Being a lover of pork I had 250g each of shoulder (B+), short ribs (B+) and belly (A), although there was some good looking Aberdeen Angus on offer as well.

Our sides included some great stewed beans (A), bright green pickled cornichons (B) and some unimpressive German potato salad (C). After a couple of glasses of IPA chosen from the wide selection of craft beers available from another bar, I left a very happy man.


Odd Fellows (Intermediate A), 175 Kent Avenue,

This is a modern ice cream parlour offering a range of unusual flavour combinations. This is the place to come for your Chorizo Caramel Swirl or your Manchego Cheese with Pineapple & Thyme. I can vouch for the Pecan Pie flavour (B+).

They are very popular and queues are inevitable. We stood in line for a quarter of an hour which wasn’t too bad.


Beco (Intermediate A), 45 Richardson St,

A Brazilian bar restaurant with a great atmosphere. Several musicians were jamming inside while we sat outside on the terrace and got chatting to some friendly locals, including Frank the Dominican shaman and Laura the English bulldog owner.


To eat, Tom had a Moqueca, a prawn and coconut stew (B+), and I had the Feijoda, the national dish which involves a stew of black beans and various kinds of pork cuts with side dishes of rice, collard greens, salsa, and farofa (toasted cassava) (A). Two pitchers of Caipirinhas sent us rolling happily home.


Williamsburg is a great town! Definitely somewhere I’d live if I could. Preferably in this stunning apartment block, known as The Lotus, at 2 Bayard St.


This is my last NYC post. On to Mexico!


New York – Manhattan – The Financial District

Posted in Financial District, Manhattan, United States of America on January 22, 2017 by gannet39

Followers of this blog will know that I am a big fan of architecture (put it into my search box to see). New York has of course got heaps of fantastic buildings and every time I come I fully intend to visit the Empire State, the Chrysler Building and all those other wonderful edifices up in midtown but somehow I never get around to doing it. It’s the thought of the crowds that puts me off I think. However I did check out a few places in the Financial District on this visit.

The neo-Gothic Woolworth Building at 233 Broadway is one of my favourites. Sadly no tourists are allowed inside and it’s quite hard to get good shots of the outside so this first pic is of a poster, just to give you an idea of the fantastic decoration.



The entablature around the front door is particularly ornate.



I love Art Deco so I had to check out the office building at 116 John St which has a nice Deco lobby.


The nicest features are the lift doors…


… and the post boxes.



The Surrogate’s Court at 31 Chambers St20150808_120006 has a nice frontage too.

8 Spruce Street, designed by Frank Gehry (of Bilbao Guggenheim fame), is the tallest residential tower in the western hemisphere with seventy six floors. The design of the facade is intended to emulate ripples on water.


Although I’m not a fan of the One World Trade Center, the replacement for the Twin Towers. I’ve renamed it ‘The Finger’ because it’s so obviously flipping the bird.


If you’re down this way, I reccommend a shopping diversion to Century 21 at 21 Dey St. It’s like a department store version of TK Maxx.

There aren’t that many restaurants in this area but here are a couple of options. I wanted to eat at Ramen Co at 100 Maiden Lane, but they didn’t open early enough for lunch. Alternatively you could try out Bourdain’s old place at Les Halles at 15 John St.

New York – Manhattan – Ramen Bars

Posted in Manhattan, United States of America with tags on January 21, 2017 by gannet39

Ramen is one of the things I love most in life and NYC, with its large Japanese community, is a great place to eat it. These are some of the best places I went to:

Totto Ramen (Low Intermediate A+), 366 W 52nd St,

This place in Hell’s kitchen was my favourite. The service is good and the ramen broth is excellent and quite unusual (A).

I had the Pork Miso Paitan which consisted of wavy noodles with ground pork, half boiled egg, scallions, bean sprouts, onions, char siu pork, topped with Koji miso bean paste.


Paitan translates as ‘milky broth’. The fat and collagen from animal bones (probably chicken and pork) give it an opaque milky white colour and a viscous taste in the mouth.

Koji refers to the culture, aspergillus oryzae, which is a time honored means of fermentation in Japan.

With a bottle of my favourite Japanese beer, Sapporo Black Label, I was in heaven.


Ippudo Ramen (Low Intermediate A), 65 4th Ave,

Part of an international chain, this place in the East Village is one of the best ramen bars in town and very popular. To beat the queues I arrived at 11.30 on a weekday but I would have still been okay if I’d arrived at 12.

I had the Shiromaru Hakata Classic; a tonkotsu (pork bone) broth with cha siu pork loin, sesame kikurage mushooms, scallions, menma and red pickled ginger. It was fantastic; top notch stock and quality cha siu pork (A).


Kikurage are also known as Cloud Ear mushrooms and are very common in Chinese cuisine. Menma are fermented bamboo shoots.

The Brooklyn draught beer served here is good but a bit pricey at $6 for a half.

Ippudo is definitely worth coming to but Totto is better in my opinion.

Sapporo Ramen (Low Intermediate B+), 152 W. 49th St,

This place in Midtown is also well renowned. I had the Chashu Miso Ramen with cha siu pork, minced pork, sweet corn, scallions, bean sprouts and nira leek (garlic chives) with extra Thai chilli, which was very good (B+).


Unfortunately the Gyoza I had on the side let the side down as they were a bit cold (B).


Also the Sapporo draught had a bit of an unpleasant aftertaste (B-).


There are of course many more great ramen bars in town. If you type ‘ramen’ into the search box of my Google map, you’ll get a few more.

New York – Manhattan – Chinatown & Little Italy

Posted in Chinatown, Little Italy, Manhattan, United States of America with tags , on January 20, 2017 by gannet39

I’m a sucker for Cha Siu Bao, so whenever I’m in a city with a large Chinese community, I head immediately to the nearest bakery.

I tried two while I was here. The Guardian says that the buns at Mei Lai Wah at 64 Bayard St are the best in Chinatown and I couldn’t disagree. It was one of the best I’ve ever tasted (A) and a steal at just $1. The bun from the Tai Pan Bakery at 194 Canal St, were okay, but not quite as good (B).


For Cantonese food, check out…

Jing Fong (Intermediate A) 20 Elizabeth St,

I came here with Karen & Tom for Dim Sum. As you can see it’s a huge place.


The Dim Sum is very good. Amongst many things we had Choi Sum with Oyster Sauce…


…Turnip Cake…


…Steamed Rice in a Lotus Leaf…


and Shrimp Noodle Dumplings.


The ‘Pheonix Claws’ were good too.


Little Italy stopped being a residential area for Italian Americans a long time ago and it’s slowly being subsumed into Chinatown, its neighbour just to the south. There are a fair few Italian restaurants left though. After our Dim Sum we went to Caffe Palermo at 148 Mulberry St for some decadent Cannoli.


There are heaps of other good places of course, both Italian and Chinese, this is just my brief experience.

New York – Manhattan – Lower East Side

Posted in Lower East Side, Manhattan, United States of America on January 18, 2017 by gannet39

I have many fond memories of partying in the Lower East Side back in 1991. My best friend Luke and I had a fabulous time with the drag queens at the underground dance club Save The Robots. Lets just say they epitomised what it means to be hospitable to strangers! The glowing blood red ambiance of the Sapphire Lounge on Eldridge Street was also  later a big influence on us in our careers as party promoters. Both places are now sadly closed.

Some legends still live on though, albeit of the culinary variety…

Russ & Daughters (Advanced A-), 179 E Houston St,, just along the road from Katz’s below

A venerable deli specialising in fish products. They are particularly famous for the NYC classic cream cheese and lox (salmon) beigel, a traditional food brought over by German Jews.


Eight kinds of cured salmon were available, including Norwegian, Scottish, Irish, gravelaks and Gaspé Nova.


Gaspé Nova is the classic NYC cure. The name dates from a time when much of the salmon in New York City came from Nova Scotia, specifically the town of Gaspé. Nowadays it refers to a milder brining and the fish can come from elsewhere, including fish farms. It tends to be milder in flavour, fattier and less smoky.

Western Wild Nova, as the name implies, the fish isn’t farmed and it comes from the Pacific. It’s wood smoked for a rich flavour..

Scottish-style salmon is cured using a brine mixture of salt and possibly sugars, spices, and other flavorings. This is put directly on the fish and then rinsed off, and the fish is cold-smoked.

Nordic-style smoked salmon is salt-cured and cold-smoked.

Gravlax, or gravad lax, is another traditional Nordic means of preparing salmon. The cure usually includes dill, sugars, salt, and spices like juniper berries. It’s often served with a sweet mustard-dill sauce.

I’m always up for trying the local delicacies, so I went for the Gaspé Nova. The choice of cream cheeses was too bewildering for me so I played safe with plain cream cheese.


It was really good but a bit too heavy on the cheese for my liking as I felt it detracted from the flavour of the fish (A-). I’ll ask for less next time I go, or maybe extra salmon…


Other delicacies available here include various kinds of caviar, pickled herrings and chocolate.



Katz’s (Advanced A-), 205 E Houston St,, just along the road from the above

Founded in 1888, this quintessential Jewish Deli is a New York institution. So much has been written about this place that it’s probably best left to others to describe. Here’s Bourdain waxing lyrical.

Katz’s is most famous for its Pastami & Rye sandwich (B+), to which some would add chicken livers for extra flavour. As ever in this city, the sandwich is enough for two people. The hot dogs are famous too, and a bit more manageable. It’s reckoned Katz’s sell 6,800kg of pastrami and 4,000 hot dogs every week!

The etymology of Pastrami is quite interesting. The spelling hints at it being Italian but in fact the it’s a corruption of ‘Pastrama’, a Romanian word. That’s because this technique for preserving beef was brought to New York by Romanian Jews in the 1870s.

New York – Manhattan – East Village

Posted in East Village, Greenwich Village, Manhattan, United States of America on January 17, 2017 by gannet39

McSorley’s (Elementary B), 15 E 7th St,

As New York’s oldest continuously operated bar, since 1854, McSorley’s still retains the feel of an old pub.


We learned from the bartender that McSorley’s remained open during prohibition as they were selling weak ‘half beer’ and no spirits.

They brew their own light and dark ales which aren’t up to much (C) but it’s worth going just for the atmosphere.

Burp Castle, just down the road at 41 E 7th St also looks like a good boozer.

As you can see on my Google map there were many, many other places in the East Village that I wanted to check out but didn’t have the time for.

One of my regrets is not going to one of the Momofuku chain which were crazy popular when I was in NYC in 2015.

New York – Manhattan – Greenwich Village – Street Art

Posted in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, United States of America with tags , on January 16, 2017 by gannet39

Some snaps from the street when I was wandering around Greenwich Village in August 2015:













New York – Manhattan – Greenwich Village – Bleecker Street

Posted in Bleecker Street, Greenwich Village, Manhattan, United States of America on January 15, 2017 by gannet39

Bleecker Street runs through the centre of Greenwich Village. There are heaps of interesting shops along here. These are a couple of my favourite foodie ones.

Faicco’s Sausage Shop (Intermediate A), 260 Bleecker St, right next door to Murray’s Cheese Shop below.


As the name implies, this is the place to come for your Italian-style deli meats.


And other key Italian ingredients.


I had the Italian Special sandwich (with Prosciutto, ‘Cappy’ (Coppa) Ham, Soppressata, Mozzarella, Lettuce, Tomatoes and Red Peppers, phew!) which was pretty damn good (B+).

It was way too much for one though so a lucky tramp got the other half.


On a recommendation I had a bottle of Manhattan Espresso Soda which was better than I thought it would be (B).


Murray’s Cheese Shop (Intermediate A), 254 Bleecker St,, right next door to Faicco above.

A temple to cheese with an impressive range of varieties on offer, and a multitude of other exotic deli items.

I tried the ‘Murray’s Melt’, basically a toasted cheese sandwich on plain white bread. It involves a secret recipe apparently (B). Back home we would add a bit of Henderson’s to make it Yorkshire Rarebit but I couldn’t detect any added sauce.


Other places nearby I wanted to check out but didn’t have the time or stomach space are Kesté Pizzeria at 271 Bleecker St and Pasticceria Rocco at 243 Bleecker St.

New York – Manhattan – Chelsea – The High Line

Posted in Chelsea, Manhattan, United States of America on January 14, 2017 by gannet39

Chelsea is the district to the north of the West Village and the Meat Packing District. There weren’t that many food places on my hit list here but Chelsea Market is worth a wander.


The Cull & Pistol Oyster Bar, inside the market is worth checking out for reasonably priced lobster and oysters.

I came with Tom and his little boy to walk along the High Line; an old overhead railway line that has been converted to a pedestrian walkway.

You can take an uninterrupted stroll in pleasant surroundings from W 14th, near Chelsea Market, to W 34th street.


The route is lined with art instillations and plant displays all along the way.

At various points you can get views of the streets below…


…which have also been beautified with street art.


Lonely Planet lists it as one of the city’s must-do attractions which is a perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but it certainly beats walking along a street. It’s worth doing if you’re in the area though, and of course it’s great if you actually live here.


The Empire Diner at 210 10th Ave, is a good place to stop off after a long walk. They have a diner style menu but it’s quite upmarket now with prices to match. It’s worth checking out just for the beautiful 1930s art deco building it lives in and the classic interior.


We also had a drink at The Park at 118 10th Ave which has a really nice garden area with trees interspersed between the tables. The steaks are supposed to be good but we were already full.

I’m sure there are many other good places in the neighbourhood, these are just my brief observations.


New York – Manhattan – The Meatpacking District

Posted in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, Meatpacking District, United States of America with tags , on January 13, 2017 by gannet39

The Meatpacking District is a small neighbourhood of about eight blocks sandwiched between Chelsea to the north and the West Village to the south, though technically I guess it’s part of Greenwich village.

The area has undergone rapid gentrification in recent years. In the 80s it was associated with drugs and prostitution, but in the 90s the yuppies and hipsters moved in and by 2004, it was “New York’s most fashionable neighborhood” according to New York magazine. I remember going to a fantastic club here back in 2006 and I presume it’s still a nightlife hotspot. This time though my visit was in the evening rather than late at night.

The Standard (Advanced A-), 848 Washington St,

This hotel has a roof terrace bar with fantastic views of the downtown skyscrapers, the River Hudson with Jersey on the other side and in the distance, the Statue of Liberty.


It’s very popular with a young and trendy crowd and is a great place to watch the sun go down. A Negroni (B), served in plastic glass, cost me €16 in 2015.


Hogs & Heifers (Advanced A-), 859 Washington St,, NOW CLOSED

This is (was) a classic New York dive bar. If you’ve seen the film Coyote Ugly you’ll have a good idea of what goes on. The barmaid uses a megaphone to abuse customers who don’t buy enough drinks or to howl like a banshee in accompaniment to the hard rock soundtrack.


What to drink when you’re in a dive bar? We settled for tequila shots and cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, quite possibly the worst beer ever made.


This is not a place to be unpatriotic; police, vet and Teamster paraphernalia covers the walls. Nor is it a bastion of female emancipation. The barmaids encourage female customers to dance on the bar with them and remove each other’s bras, which are then added to the huge clump hanging above the bar. You can see the goings-on in this video I took.


Apparently back in 1996 Julia Roberts danced on the bar here and left her bra. The owners calculate that 16,000 bras have been removed since the bar opened in 1993.

I have recently heard that Hogs & Heifers closed in 2016 due to the rent being put up. It wasn’t my kind of place by any means but it was fun to have experienced it while it was still around. Here are six more ‘bra bars‘ should you feel like you’ve missed out.

New York – Manhattan – West Village

Posted in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, United States of America, West Village on January 12, 2017 by gannet39

In August 2015 I stopped off in New York for six nights of holiday before continuing on to Mexico for four weeks of work. It was my third time here, the previous visit being nine years before in 2006, and the time before that sometime around 1991. I really love this city so I was very happy to be back.


As can be seen from my Google map, my priorities have changed a lot over that time from partying and hunting for rare vinyl to eating and drinking as well as possible.

I was also here to visit friends, all Londoners having a change of scene. They included my old flatmate Alex, who has lived in Manhattan for over ten years, and Tom and Karen who were in Brooklyn for eighteen months.

On all my visits, my main problem was finding somewhere cheap to stay so I was very happy to find this historical hotel on a shortlist provided by Guardian readers…

The Jane Hotel (Elementary A), 113 Jane St,

Completed in 1908, The Jane was originally intended as a hotel for sailors on shore leave. This is why it feels and looks very much like an old ocean liner with small cabin rooms and bunk beds.

It was designed by William Boring who was also the architect for the Ellis Island immigration facility. In 1912 it housed many of the survivors from the Titanic disaster.

The Standard one bunk rooms are truly tiny but are some of the cheapest in the city at only $99 a night (2015 price). The Captain’s rooms are larger and have terraces should you want more space. Bathrooms are communal but kept very clean and the Wi-Fi has a strong signal. Breakfast is not included but there’s a cafe in the same building (see below).

The Jane Ballroom on the ground floor is one of the best places in town for a night out and is very popular with the party crowd at the weekends, but it didn’t disturb my sleep. Overall it’s a great place to stay despite the tiny rooms.

Café Gitane (Intermediate B), 113 Jane St,

This chilled café is in the same building as the Jane, so it’s the easiest place to come for your breakfast. The food is decent but a bit pricey in my opinion. I had an Egg & Merguez Sausage Roll with Parmesan & Salad for €14.50 and Lavazza coffee for €3.75


Corner Bistro (Elementary B+), 331 West 4th Street,

Just a few blocks along the street from the Jane, this old pub that does one of the best burgers in town. I recommend the plain burger medium rare (A+) but not the fries which are pretty ordinary (C). You could have trimmings like cheese and bacon but I think they detract from the flavour of the excellent meat patties. The sell local McSorley’s ale (see my East Village post) but I’d rather have the Hoegaarden.


Obviously there are heaps of other great places in this historic neighbourhood but this is what I sampled in the brief time I was there. There’s plenty more to come…

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