Visiting New York for the first time was an experience so heavily laden with expectation and promise. New York is bursting with things to do, see and eat — each one needing attention and priority. For better or worse, I’m not a guidebook reader and often that results in me landing in a foreign city without a clue. I really enjoy settling into a place by just people watching and wandering but we did ask ex-NYC residents and friends about their not-to-miss lists. We visited as many as we could and hopefully I have a few to add. These were my little discoveries.
New York is on aesthetic steroids. Everything is just bigger, brighter, flashier, grungier — whatever you want, they’ve got and more.
AllSaints Spitalfields in SoHo filled me with so much post-apocalyptic styled happiness… An entire wall was lined top to bottom with antique Singer sewing machines (there are 493 of them), referencing “Spitalfields” — a historic textile area in London. They had giant wooden bobbins tacked to the wall above the change rooms. I adore the heavy industrial feel of their space which contrasts with the soft, worn sweaters in unexpected shapes and textures. Tiny little details like miniature deer antlers used as clothes hooks just made me giddy.
Lightness and Charm
For every instance where a random harried stranger brusquely bumped into me on the street, there was an instance of something absolutely charming about New York. I know this might be more of an Anthropologie thing than a NYC thing, but as a Canadian without Anthropologie, I feel like I’ve just discovered some of the loveliest displays I’ve ever encountered.
The stylist was just getting started on installing this window… hand applying coloured tags to the dress form.
And oh-so-random, we walked into the Anthropologie at Rockefeller Center and there was a little Dixieland jazz quartet playing in the entrance. There just happened to be an art show opening for a group of artists from New Orleans and we got to partake of their cocktail-sized beignets!
Also exquisitely charming is the new Purl SoHo. You can see all the photos of Purl here. But this is by far my favourite one. The display at the very front of the shop has samples of their patchwork fabric in embroidery hoops. Who knew that Purl carried so much embroidery stuff. And Ozark Handspun… that yarn is so fun.
The most beautiful thing in New York has to be Central Park. What a retreat from the world. A huge patch of calm in the middle of a very intense city. If I lived in New York, I’d definitely be a runner. Most definitely. We saw the park covered in snow and watched young families toboggan down gentle hills into haystacks. We walked through about two-thirds of the park… for several hours… until our legs couldn’t hold us anymore and we limped back to our tiny hotel room, frozen but happy.
From what little I experienced, I felt that personal space is at a real low in New York. Living spaces are tiny and they squeeze people out into the streets which are crowded and rushed. Even our hotel room — the front door couldn’t open all the way since it bumped into the bed at about 65% of the way.
There’s a scene in the movie Valentine’s Day where Anne Hathaway and Topher Grace are having dinner and the restaurant goers are all so tightly packed that she accidentally drinks out of her neighbour’s water glass. We had that same squished and clausterphobic feeling at Socarrat Paella Bar on our last night in NYC. The paella and sangria were delicious and worth braving the minus zero weather to get there, but the concept is maybe not my style. The restaurant is very small and long with one long, communal table down the centre that seats at most 12 diners (if you arrive at a busy time, you’ll just have to wait). You get seated directly opposite your fellow dining partner and so the entire evening is spent (literally) rubbing shoulders with strangers and unintentionally eavesdropping on other people’s conversations.
For another dinner we spent 95 minutes, packed like sardines, waiting for a table at Ippudo. The ramen was pretty darn good and I really enjoyed the food, but the unpleasantness of being pressed against the cold entrance door by thirty other hungry, cranky diners really diminished the experience for me. I don’t know how people manage to eat in NYC… maybe they just need more ramen shops.
And I sort of understand the need for places like Central Park and even the tucked away Secret Burger Joint. It’s just the need to escape.
I hear there’s something about New York or Brooklyn water. Something incredible. It’s the reason that apparently the bagels, crusty breads and pizza crusts taste better. While not confirming or denying the legend of the water, I had some of the tastiest bakery treats I’ve ever had on this trip.
Clinton Street Baking Co. was recommended to us by several people. Maybe because they knew of my love of breakfast food or maybe because they knew that Clinton Street Baking Co. undeniably makes the lightest and fluffiest blueberry pancakes around. Not being quick enough to buy the cookbook at the cafe, I researched a bit online and found people trying to recreate these pancakes. One of the secrets to success may be whipping the egg whites separately and folding them in at the last minute. Another secret is possibly using cake flour instead of regular flour. I don’t know. All I know is, we left mere days before PANCAKE MONTH, dammit.
Amy’s Bread in the Chelsea Market was also worth the visit. The spicy grilled cheese sandwich was full with cilantro and fresh tomato and made a memorable breakfast. And since my eyes are bigger than my stomach, about 20 minutes later we stopped at Sarabeth’s for super creamy tomato soup and a heavenly almond croissant. Chelsea Market being the location where the Food Network films Iron Chef America (among others) is bound to be teeming with delicious bite after bite… I found it hard to leave.
We missed so many restaurants and places (sadly, I missed visiting Brooklyn General and the second floor of the Met), the only way to rectify the situation is to go back. Soon.