Cronuts

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Maya and I finally got to experience the real Cronut during our recent trip to New York City. The famous croissant and donut hybrids were sold out on our last visit, so we decided to make it our priority to get our hands on them this time around. We dropped off our luggage in Midtown and made a beeline to Dominique Ansel Bakery in Soho.

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There was already a line, about 20 people deep, when we arrived around 9:00 a.m. We had to wait for about an hour just to get inside the shop, which was another 20 minutes or so. We were a bit surprised because we thought the Cronut fever has died down by now, especially with all the other donut shops and patisseries offering copycat treats, but that surely wasn’t the case. The lady in front of us, a regular, told us that the line is usually much worse earlier in the morning.

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The Cronuts were already packaged in a yellow box and stacked near the register to speed up the line. Maya ordered a cup of coffee and I grabbed a cup of Earl Grey tea and seated ourselves on a small table near the door.

Now, the moment of truth …

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What I liked:

The Cronut definitely tasted more like a croissant than a donut, unlike some imitation faux-nuts (or “do-ssant”) at neighborhood 24-hour donut shops. It tasted like a very sophisticated dessert. I enjoyed the slight chewiness of the dough as well.

What I didn’t like:

A little too much pastry cream in the middle. The flavor of the day was strawberry and although I enjoyed the sweet and tangy combination of the berries, the cream tasted slightly off to me. I would have loved to try the simple vanilla pastry cream instead.

The verdict: ★★★★☆

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Extra: We ordered bake-to-order mini Madeleines. They were good but weren’t eye-popping or anything.

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My Favorite NYC Moments #5: Lunch at Balthazar

I like Balthazar so much that I make an effort to dine here every time I’m in the city.  It’s the next best thing to Paris.

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Is there anything more beautiful than burnt cheese on top of French Onion Gratinee? I didn’t think so either.

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Maya ordered Brandade de Moure, salt cod and potato puree, enjoyed by smearing on crusty baguette slices. It’s light and not fishy at all.

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Moules and Frites (Mussels and Fries) for Maya.

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Balthazar Salad for me. I didn’t care too much for this. The truffle oil the salad was tossed in was way too strong for me!

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This was our first meal in NYC. What a great way to begin the adventure!

Here’s the full list of my top 10 moments:

  1. Dinner at Villard Michel Richard
  2. Lunch at Babbo
  3. Picnic at Central Park
  4. Serendipity 3
  5. Lunch at Balthazar
  6. Grand Central Oyster Bar
  7. Gahm Mi Oak
  8. Dominique Ansel Bakery
  9. La Vie at JFK
  10. Bryant Park at night

My Favorite NYC Moments #8: Dominique Ansel Bakery

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Okay, Cronuts were already sold out when we got to Dominique Ansel Bakery in the afternoon and I didn’t even try the other popular desserts like Chocolate Chip Cookie Milk Shot, but the chocolate eclair I had was pretty good!  And it gave me an excuse to hang out in SoHo, one of my my favorite areas in NYC.

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Here’s the full list of my top 10 moments:

  1. Dinner at Villard Michel Richard
  2. Lunch at Babbo
  3. Picnic at Central Park
  4. Serendipity 3
  5. Lunch at Balthazar
  6. Grand Central Oyster Bar
  7. Gahm Mi Oak
  8. Dominique Ansel Bakery
  9. La Vie at JFK
  10. Bryant Park at night

Mondrian SoHo

Shannon and I made Mondrian SoHo our home during our stay in the Big Apple. We really wanted to fall in love with this hotel. The hotel was absolutely breathtaking, the room was tiny but comfortable, and the view from the room was out of this world. But the customer service we received completely turned us off from this place.

I took a red-eye to NYC and got to the hotel around 6:30 a.m. I knew that the check in would be around 3:00 p.m. but the guy at the front desk promised me a room in the next two hours. So I stayed in the hotel until I get the call from him. Otherwise, I would have gone over to Carmen’s place where Shannon was staying for the night, and kicked it there until the room was ready.

Shannon met me at the hotel, and we had an overpriced breakfast at the hotel to kill some more time. After about two hours, we went up to the front desk to find out the status of the room. The guy who promised the room has already left for the day, and this Asian guy was absolutely no help. I told him about the situation but all he kept telling us is that the check in is at 3:00 p.m. (he didn’t even check the computer or anything).

We got tired of him so we went to the other guy for help, who actually made an effort to find out the status of the room. He wasn’t able to get us the room but at least he tried. We were so appalled by the way that Asian a-hole treated us, that our experience here was completely ruined. He and the hotel can expect many negative reviews from me in the next few days.  (I think I should note here that most of the staff at the hotel were very friendly and helpful.  It was just that one guy who ruined our entire experience!)

Okay, enough of venting. Just thinking about that guy makes me upset.

Aside from the horrible customer service, the room was nice. Extremely small but the bed was comfortable.

This was our view from the shower. It felt strange at first (we felt like we were on display for the entire Lower East Side to see) but we got used to it after a while. The view at night was extraordinary.

A little outdoor area to relax.

Mondrian in Soho
9 Crosby, New York, NY 10012
Customer Service: ★★☆☆☆
Atmosphere: ★★★★★
Cleanliness:  ★★★★★

Would I stay here again? Probably not because it’s too pricey and the customer service sucked.

Balthazar Restaurant

Shannon and I spent the last four days in NYC and had a wonderful time. All we wanted to do on this trip was to relax, eat good food and drink, and that’s precisely what we did. We stayed in SoHo and we pretty much didn’t leave the area! Some may think that we missed out on a great opportunity to explore the city, but being lazy was what we needed to unwind … and escape from the real world!

Our first stop was lunch at Balthazar, located two blocks from where we were staying. I’ve seen this restaurant before but didn’t realize that this was a New York hot spot, with celebrity frequenting this French bistro. We got really lucky and got seated right away. By the time we ordered our food, this place was jammed packed with locals and tourists, looking to enjoy the French flare.

Salad Nicoise and French Fries for me, and Mac and Cheese for Shannon.

Amazing bread!

Creme Brulee — a perfect finish to a great lunch.

Balthazar Restaurant
80 Spring Street, New York, NY 10012
(on Spring, between Broadway and Crosby)
★★★★☆

Springtime in Manhattan

A breathtaking lavender garden in Washington Square Park

People aren’t kidding when they say that there is nothing like New York in the springtime. Even for someone like me who’s been incredibly spoiled with the year-round Southern California weather, the spring in the city is truly something else!

After spending the first few days in cold rain and unfriendly wind, we were finally welcomed by the sun and its beautiful 75-degree ray, as if it were urging me and my colleague / friend H to get out of the office and take in the warmth on the lovely Friday afternoon. Never the ones to decline such tempting invitation from mother nature, we wrapped our day’s work a little early and headed over to Manhattan for a late lunch and a well-earned break!


The front of Purl SoHo on Broome Street

We took the C train from Brooklyn to Canal Street, a mere 10-minute ride, which landed us in the neighborhood of  SoHo. The primary mission today for me was to visit a lovely yarn and fabric store, Purl Soho, owned by Joelle Hoverson, the author of my favorite craft books, Last Minute Knitted Gifts and Last Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts. I had been dying to check this lovely store out, which recently moved to the new, larger location on Broome Street. While most people list famous landmarks like the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, and Broadway shows as the must-sees in New York, I have Jacques Torres Chocolates in Brooklyn, Ronnybook Milk Bar in Chelsea Market (for the best yogurt in the world), and yes, Purl Soho, on my priority list. 😆

I actually visited Purl Soho already the day before. I made a beeline to the store right after work last night and spent an easy two hours browsing and salivating over colorful fabrics and luscious yarns from its robust collection. Although I came back to the hotel that night with a good sampling of fabrics, including a floral print from Liberty of London, I couldn’t stop thinking about the rest of the designs that I passed up. I was determined to return to the store to pick up a few items that I could not leave NY without having them in my possession! So there I was, back in this crafter’s dream, nearly passing out from the cuteness overload once again. Hoverson’s tastes in yarn and fabric selections are simply impeccable. She is the epitome of chic style, and I am so inspired by the vision and creativity she exudes in everything she does. I wish I can pluck this heavenly store and bring it back to Los Angeles.


The Color Wheel Quilt Bundle, 50+ different fabrics for the quilted color wheel featured in her patchwork book


The amazing Liberty print … it is so dreamy!

After I satisfied my textile needs, H and I walked over to the Greenwich Village and walked through NYU. We relaxed a little in Washington Square Park, which was lively with people enjoying the music and the sun, before heading over to Carrie’s Stoop (I wanted to show H the place since she’s also a fan of Sex and the City) and enjoyed Magnolia‘s cupcakes and an ice-cold drink at the park across the street (it looks like this is becoming my ritual when vising NY). What a perfect day to be outside!


The magnificent Washington Square Arch


The Central Fountain


The peek of the Empire State Building from the Arch


Carrie’s Stoop on Perry Street

If I lived in Manhattan, I might want to live in the Village or Soho.  These places are alive with such great energy and make me want to enjoy being in the present.  There were so many hidden gems in the neighborhood, including shops like Sabon and Soapology, which specialize in bath goods and offer natural handmade soaps.  I love that they cut a piece of soap for you at the store upon request. Needless to say, I came home with bag full of soaps to add to my soap collection at home!


Soapology in the Meatpacking District


Soapology soaps from top: Rose (pink), Lily of the Valley (white), Seaweed (green), Honeysuckle (light blue), Cucumber (dark blue)


Sabon in Greenwich Village — there are other locations all over New York, as well as Boston and Chicago


Sabon soaps: Lemon Mint, Rosemary, and Rose

The forecast tells us to expect rain over the weekend but that will definitely not stop me from exploring the city even more! It’s been a long and tiring week at work but an afternoon like this in the city makes all the hard work worth it.

I heart New York.  Oh, and my hotel room smells incredible now from all the soaps!  🙂