Day 4: I Heart Brooklyn

Maya and I welcomed Day 4 of our NYC adventures with mixed emotions. While we were excited that we had another good afternoon ahead of us, we were so sad that this was going be our last day in NYC.

We spent our final afternoon sightseeing in Brooklyn. Our first stop was DUMBO (shortened for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), where we got to be at the foot of Manhattan Bridge. I actually think Brooklyn Bridge is 10 times prettier than the neighboring Manhattan Bridge.

We stumbled upon a wonderful restaurant called Al Mar (thanks to Maya and her handy Android), where we enjoyed a fabulous lunch. The place was cozy and very Brooklyn.  I can totally see myself spending hours here with a good book.

Maya had Eggs in the Cloud (baked egg yolk floating on whipped egg whites, Fontina cheese, smoked ham, toasted Brioche, served with saute spinach) and I had smoked salmon sandwich (with avocado, cucumbers, beets, and creme fraiche, on pumpernickel breads). We split the tart. Everything here was absolutely amazing!

After lunch, we strolled over to the Brooklyn Height neighborhood and took in the picturesque Downtown skylines. I am absolutely in love with Brooklyn and this is perhaps my favorite spot in this borough. I get a rush of energy whenever I stand here.

It still feels a little strange that the World Trade Centers are no longer standing proudly among these buildings in Lower Manhattan. I’ve been to NYC many times in the last several years, but I still haven’t made the visit to Ground Zero. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to go there.

What I love so much about this magnificent city is that each neighborhood has its own, unique charms. Brooklyn doesn’t feel, at all, like Manhattan. You feel like you were transported to another state when you get off the subway. Brooklyn feels slower paced, greener, and a lot more relaxed, than Manhattan.

After the visit to Brooklyn, we hurried back to our hotel in Times Square to collect our luggage (we stopped by at Pie Face for some cute savory pies for the road). We took a cab to JFK, to get ready to board our flights home. We ate an early dinner at Le Vie in the jetBlue terminal – our last supper together on the trip. Maya and I toasted our Chardonnay and Espresso Martini to short but a wonderful four days together, and enjoyed delicious meals of escargot (for her), Salad Nicoise and Pomme Frites (for me).

Now, it’s time to find a destination for our next adventures! (Oh, and to unpack and resume the real world.)

Mysterious Concoction: Kombucha

I got hooked on Kombucha while I was in Brooklyn. I guess the word “hooked” is a little misleading because I still can’t figure out if I like this cultured tea with slimy jelly-like mold floating in the bottle or I actually think it’s pretty disgusting, but I visited a local grocery shop called Chop Chop almost daily to get a dose of this strange liquid concoction. The tea fizzled in my mouth like soda and left a strange aftertaste like I just chugged a bottle of apple cider vinegar but drinking this strange tea somehow made me feel like I was doing something good for my body. But whether it did anything to my well-being still remains to be seen.

In addition to Kombucha, there are less-mysterious offerings at Chop Chop, like made-to-order salads and sandwiches, along with delicious prepared food like grilled meats vegetables.  I was so glad that this place was located a few blocks from the hotel I was staying.  It gave me an opportunity to get away from all the other restaurant food I was eating for dinner!

Chop Chop
126 Smith St, Brooklyn, NY 11201

How Sweet It Is: Streets of Brooklyn

I love walking aimlessly, with no real destination in sight. I love getting lost in an unknown city and feeling the sense of jittery panic, not knowing which way to turn. (This, of course, only works in a bright daylight where one wrong turn can lead to an unexpected adventure, as opposed to a dangerous situation.) I think this is my way of compensating for my every day life where things are very much controlled and in predictable order. Sometime, I just like to let myself go and let the Universe decide my fate and destination. And what better place to walk aimlessly than on the streets of Brooklyn, where every turn is welcomed by contemporary beauty, nature, and timeless wonders?

So yes, I’m in Brooklyn now and this will be my home away from home for the next several weeks. I was here two weeks ago but didn’t have the chance to see the neighborhood much, other than the commute from the hotel to the office, so I am determined to take as much of the energy of this place as possible this time around. And speaking of the Universe doing its thing, it is funny that I’m here in New York because I’ve been thinking about wanting to come back to this magnificent city again for some time now but wasn’t sure how I would be able to juggle a vacation time with all the other business travels I had lined up … and here I am!

This morning, I woke up early to take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. I wanted to see the view of Manhattan from the bridge and experience a little bit of the Miranda / Steve moment when they met halfway between the bridge in the first Sex And the City movie (one of my favorite scenes from the entire movie … I can’t watch this scene without crying .. and I can’t wait for the sequal that comes out next week).

After I walked across the bridge and waved to the Manhattan Bridge that stands parallel to its arching cousin, I came back around and headed to the neighborhood of DUMBO (which stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), known for its emerging arts community. I was particularly interested in visiting DUMBO to experience Jacques Torres’ chocolates which had been in my “New York To-Do / Eat List” for years.

I’ve been an admirer of Jacques Torres for some time now. If I remember correctly, he was one of the first celebrity chefs to appear on Food Network when it first launched (when it actually showed low budget but very educational cooking shows as opposed to today’s more silly game show-type nonsense) and I used to salivate over the beautifully artistic chocolates and other sweets he created on a show simply titled, Chocolate with Jacques Torres. I admittedly got a mixed emotion when I saw Torres on an episode of Girls Next Door where he helped make chocolates molded out of very private parts of Holly, Bridget, and Kendra a few years ago but I like to think that he is a man with a great sense of humor!

The original shop (and the one I visited) is located on Water Street, between the two bridges in Brooklyn. The shop is small but cozy and dreamlike, with every chocolate treat imaginable packed in a tiny space. I walked out with bags of chocolate-covered  cork flakes and Cherrios (breakfast, anyone?) and a small cup of its famous hot chocolate.

Instead of the regular one, I tired Wicked, with hints of allspice, cinnamon, ground sweet ancho and chipotle chili peppers! The drink was very rich and flavorful and tasted like a liquid chocolate as opposed to the traditional hot chocolate we are accustomed to. I must say that the drink wasn’t as fire-ry and spicy or even as sugary as I expected to be, it was still very delicious and extremely satisfying. I’m glad to be able to check off an item from my culinary and New York to do list!

How sweet it is to be in Brooklyn, indeed!