Tag Archives: East Village

Surviving the polar vortex

parkGreetings from the Arctic North! Or at least, what feels like it to my imagination. We have reach the bleakest of bleak times: the dead of winter. I don’t know how anyone here is faring well with their New Year’s fitness-related resolutions because I’m pretty sure the only thing these continuous weeks of below-freezing temps, snow and icy winds are good for is wrapping up in a blanket and drowning your sorrows in Netflix marathons and hot cocoa.

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snow 1I still find myself enchanted by the utter transformation of Central Park in the snow. It emerges as a miniature Narnia; you can half-expect to see Mr. Tumnus come plodding along the wooded paths, umbrella in hand and invitation to afternoon tea perched on the lips, at any moment. See this bench in the Shakespeare Garden here? On one of the blissful days when I had secured my job but hadn’t yet started working, I spent a whole August afternoon curled up in that exact spot, reveling in the dappled sunlight and the campiness of Valley of the Dolls.

The actual streets and sidewalks one has to navigate each day, however, are an entirely different story — one filled with many lost hopes and dreams and plenty of dirty slush. People only seem to be out and about when absolutely necessary; on the weekends, the sidewalks are eerily deserted, only a brave few navigating the rock salt rubble and goop.

pancakesI am incredibly eager for spring: for the daffodils that seem to peek up from every crack in the sidewalk, to shed my puffy down coat (and hat and gloves and scarf and boots), to breakfast on scones at the Conservatory Boat Pond again. The last two weekends have been so brutal, we’ve cozied up in the apartment and made oatmeal banana pancakes instead of moseying on over to our favorite corner diner. Surprise! Our pancakes are better. (:

I do believe I am starting to develop cabin fever though. I think that has to do with it getting dark by the time I leave work combined with the hurrying extra-fast from Point A to Point B to avoid getting frostbite. The first round of this beast known as the Polar Vortex, I couldn’t feel my thighs by the time I got to the subway station — it was -15 F with the wind chill! I saw people sprinting in the direction of the train station from blocks away, which was an amusing sight, despite the bitterly cold circumstances. To solve the frozen thigh problem, I took to wearing tights under my pants last week, which was effective for the outdoors, but made me feel like I was sweating out all my toxins at a sauna once I got to the office. (On blistering hot summer days when I sweat off all my makeup and deodorant by the time I arrive in the morning, I have to wear a cardigan indoor to prevent goosebumps. You can’t win in that place!)

aliAll this time cooped up indoors has motivated us to explore out-of-the-ordinary hobbies. Sean has started picking up his guitar again, and I’ve busted out both the yoga mat and some French grammar workbooks. There’s the pancake-making, of course, and I’ve decided to finally tackle that intimidating Western epic of a novel, Lonesome Dove. We’ve also started watching The Wire on DVD, which is a crime drama about the street drug trade in Baltimore, and will keep us quite occupied from here until next New Year’s.

And to stay warm, we’ve been exploring all varieties of foods that can warm a person from the inside out. I’ve made taco soup and shepherd’s pie, but on the weekends, we’ve been trying out a world of “chicken noodle soups.”

First off, we decided to visit an authentic ramen-ya to see what all the fuss is about, as we had brushed off ramen as overly salty and reserved for a poor college student’s dinner. We went to Ippudo in the East Village and after waiting for what felt like FOREVER (ramen is very popular in the cold), we were led to a large communal table and all the servers greeted us joyfully in Japanese! We both ordered the “Akamaru Modern,” which is pork soup noodles topped with  “umami dama” miso paste, pork chashu, cabbage, sesame kikurage mushrooms, scallions, and fragrant garlic oil. Not your boring old microwaveable Cup ‘O Noodles! It was a giant bowl of delicious.

ramenBut this past weekend we found a real gem! Cafe Himalaya, a Tibetan/Nepalese hole-in-the-wall, with cheap, piping hot eats. Here we tried the thukpa, a traditional Tibetan noodle soup with lots of veggies and hearty pieces of tofu. Once you mix in the house-made spicy chutney, this stuff will clear out your sinuses really well, I promise. I guess the mountain dwellers would know how to make an incredibly satisfying winter’s meal. For $6.99 and easily over two servings in one order, we will definitely be back before we see the other side of freezing up here. And next time, I’m getting the hot tea! Give me all of the warm.

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How do you keep warm on frigidly cold days?

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East Village favorites.

I love the East Village. I mean, I love the Upper East Side as a home, but the East Village is the perfect place to get away for an afternoon or evening. Firstly, it is super-easy for us to get to via the 4/5/6 lines, but more importantly, the East Village is just a cool place.

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With the days of junkies in the streets and the Tompkins Square Park riots long gone, the East Village isn’t quite the bohemian hell depicted in the likes of Rent anymore. But it’s still quirky and charming as ever.

Sean and I recently realized we end up in the East Village every single weekend at some point or another, and I’m beginning to feel as familiar with certain areas of the neighborhood as much as the UES.

Here’s a quick list of our favorite East Village haunts, some newer discoveries and others more familiar:

Food:

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Mark: Easily the best burger and fries hole-in-the-wall place we’ve come across. It blows Shake Shack out of the water, and it will make you wonder why people line up out the door for the aforementioned chain. And they have different kinds of ketchup, like jalapeno and chipotle (our favorites), which is fun. Great happy hour specials on drinks AND food too, and a good laid-back atmosphere for meeting up with friends or for taking Texas visitors.

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Pommes Frites: Speaking of fries, this teeny-tiny take-out place that only serves Belgian fries is divine. We try not to go there too often because, uh, our health, but their fries are amazing. The best part is they have a bunch of different dipping sauces you can choose from (as well as poutine, for our Northern friends!) Our go-to is sundried tomato mayo, but I think the rosemary garlic mayo and curry ketchup are enjoyable as well.

Malai Marke: This fairly recently opened Indian restaurant is worth the cost of a nicer dinner date. All of the food is wonderful; and there are always a lot of Indian people eating there, so I think that’s a good sign. Only con is that naan costs extra, and what is an Indian dinner without piping hot, fluffy naan? We get lamb madras and saag paneer and share everything, which is my favorite way to eat out. Who wants to get stuck with one dish? There’s a classier ambiance to this place — the empty spice racks on the walls and dim lighting — that you don’t get at a standard Indian take-out joint. I like it.

Sigiri: While we’re on the subject of spicy ethnic cuisine, let’s talk about Sigiri. Sigiri is a Sri Lankan restaurant. I’m not really sure how to describe Sri Lankan food as a whole. I just know I like kotthu roti, and I’m not even sure what that is. It’s meat and vegetables and egg and breading all mashed up together into a Thanksgiving dressing-like substance, mysteriously infused with sinus-clearing spice levels. Totally makes up for the lack of decent Tex-Mex in this city.

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Mono + Mono: This Korean fried chicken restaurant doesn’t have the best reviews, but I’m not exactly an expert on Korean fried chicken, so whatever. I do know that Korean fried chicken is crispy, juicy and far surpasses American buffalo wings. I also love the concept/decor of this place. The walls are glass displays of shelves and shelves of vinyl records, and this guy walks around and picks one out to play on the jukebox/turntable.

Awash: A simple, no-nonsense Ethiopian restaurant. You can eat with your hands. Everything tastes so good, I want to travel to Africa myself for the real deal.  They have honey wine. Go there.

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Caracas Arepa Bar: Oh. My. Goodness. This place is the answer to our prayers! A nook of a restaurant dishing out Venezuelan street food. I didn’t know what an arepa was before coming here — it’s like a cross between a sandwich made of cornbread and a taco — but now I want to eat one every day of my life. Plus, they use some of my favorite ingredients: black beans (!!!), avocado, and plantains. Yes, please.

Drinks & Dessert:

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Amor y Amargo: Probably my favorite cocktail bar in the city. Not that I go to a lot of cocktail bars because $$$, but I love this place. It’s classy, but not pretentious. Intimate, but not crowded. The tiny bar itself has a lot of character. They are always playing good music, and the same easy-going bartender always seems to be there. Their boast-worthy drink that has gotten a lot of press is their gin and tonic, which worthy of its praise. I know I’ll come back here again and again.

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Death & Co.: OK, so this speakeasy is a little pretentious. And pricey. So it’s definitely a special occasion thing. They only let as many people in as they can physically seat at the time, and you can’t take flash photos with your camera or be wearing ratty jeans or anything. So it’s a nice little escape from the chaos of the city. The cocktails are their specialty. Last time I was there, a girl next to me ordered a beer. You can get a beer at almost every restaurant, bar, and convenience store in this city. You do not go to Death & Company for a beer, OK? You go for a Fitzgerald or a Legend or a Gypsy Wedding or some other fancy-pants drink. I mean, there are black walls and floors. You have to get a cocktail when black is involved.

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Veniero’s Pastry: A long-standing Italian bakery and pastry shop/cafe, with plenty of seating and a daunting list of cakes by the slice. I want to try them all, but I think my waistline would hate me. (Well-known for their cannoli. I’m not a cannoli person, so…)

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Big Gay Ice Cream Shop: This ice creamery has a giant unicorn painted on their wall and a rainbow ice cream cone on the window. Basically, it is soft-serve for grown-ups (think salty-sweet combos), but there are always a million kids in here. Because we all scream for ice cream.

Shopping:

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Academy Records: I really don’t know much about this new & used vinyl shop, but Sean is obsessed with it and always wants to go here, so it’s on the list. It doesn’t have a resident cat like Bleeker Street Records in the West Village, so it’s not THE coolest record store in my book. I do get good vibes when I’m in there though. And people do bring in their dogs, so there’s that.

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No Relation Vintage: I love this thrift store. I mean, I love all thrift stores, but unlike all the other thrift stores I’ve seen here that are totally banking off the thrifting trend and charging more than I would spend on brand-new clothes, this place is very reasonable. I bought a pair of Levi cut-offs for $8. A good mix of vintage dresses, funky tees, worn-in shorts and boots, and way out there pieces like a military flight suit and floor-length fur coats. I’ll definitely be coming back to get my thrifting fix — and a few giggles!

The Strand Bookstore: I guess this mecca for bookworms isn’t really in the East East Village, but I’ve walked from there to a number of the other places I’ve mentioned, so I’m counting it. It’s amazing. I would walk miles to get to The Strand. And I’m pretty sure I have.

The East Village is perfect for wandering around aimlessly and getting lost in, so you never know when you’ll next stumble upon something wonderful!

 

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