nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic

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Introducing the Dag Dog

It’s all go in New York today as the 193 members of the United Nations get together for the meeting of the General Assembly. Luckily the UN building is not in our part of town but I wouldn’t touch the FDR driveway today, especially if the President is around. The roads jam up, the subway stops and there are a lot of scary looking black cars going very fast. Can you guess which one contains the President – bit like the card game ‘chase the lady’ or whatever it’s called.

I am reminded of our recent visit to the UN. You can turn up as a tourist and have a look around but only on a pre-booked tour. Our South Korean guide was gushing in her admiration for her fellow countryman, Ban Ki-moon, current Secretary General. We got to have a look in the various meeting rooms, fitted out by the Scandinavian countries, for some IKEA style wooden calm. Couldn’t seen inside the General Assembly building as it was being finished off for this week’s meeting. But overall it’s interesting to see, apart from the walk through various corridors that remind you that you are an unimportant person in a very important but functional administration building – off white walls, peeling paint and a distinct lack of light.

Anyhow, having taken in all that information and bought my UN pencil and mug, we emerged into the sunlight of 1st Avenue and wandered over to Dag’s. It is named after Dag Hammarskjold, the second Secretary General of the United Nations who died in a plane crash on his way to a mission in the Congo. I’m sure he would have been proud to have his name associated with a library in the UN building but to be the name of an outdoor cafe just off 1st Avenue? Not sure about that one. I also think he might have been slightly horrified to have a hot dog named after him. Yes, the Dag Dog. R had one and he said its combination of cheddar cheese, grilled onions, applewood bacon and mustard was a diplomatic success. Well, no he didn’t really, but he should have. Looked like a greasy hot dog to me.


United Nations building as seen from 1st Avenue

United Nations building as seen from 1st Avenue

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And I thought kale was for cows

It’s hard to believe these days, but it’s true, that I was brought up on a farm way out in the English countryside. All cows, fields and pretty much nothing to do. The farmer grew kale for the cows and they munched it. We grew our own vegetables, well my mum and dad did, and I don’t think I ever ate kale. Not knowingly.

When I rebelled age 14 and turned vegetarian, much to my dad’s disappointment, I subsisted on a fairly meagre diet until post University when I got all poncy and started buying kale in bags from Sainsbury’s and steamed it. It tasted OK, I felt worthy and the world kept spinning. I never persuaded R of its virtues and since he was the main reason I turned against my vegetarian ways around the age of 30, it was unlikely I’d ever get any vegetarian food down him, however hard I tried.

So why this little visit down kale memory lane? Because in New York KALE IS EVERYWHERE! Yes, it deserves those capital letters, because it’s bonkers. Kale in plastic boxes smeared in cheese, to make it taste better but ruin any health value it may have once held. It’s in the juice bar, as an option to go in your drink. You see women in those ubiquitous Soul Cycle outfits sipping green juice, and you know it’s mostly kale. Yuck. It’s sold in huge bunches in the vegetable section. Surely no one could eat that much of the stuff before it goes all swampy in the fridge?

According to the New York Times  “there was a lot of buzz in early to mid-August about looming shortages in the tough, seemingly ubiquitous leafy green (kale) that has reigned as a darling of foodies for the last couple of years.” Apparently it’s OK now, they found a few fields that farmers forgot about and those poor cows lost their tasty afternoon snack to give those New Yorkers their daily dose of green. I had a quinoa drink the other day, that was gross too, but that’s another story…

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$4.25 for a doughnut?

Surely not. But yes, today I was walking down East 78th street between 1st and 2nd Avenue and found a new (to me) bakery called Orwashers. Sitting in their window was the biggest, fattest doughnut ever. Is that a jelly (err, jam) doughnut I ask? Why yes, but you can choose what flavour you want inside. And there on the blackboard was a list of jam flavours and some enormous syringes.

Curious I said I’d have one (and because I love doughnuts) and she proceeded to stab the fat doughnut with a large pair of scissors before injecting the doughnut with a vast amount of jam. Oh my.

I carried it home very carefully, cut it into four and shared with J and E (R will have to wait, if he’s lucky, his quarter will survive in the fridge until this evening). The verdict? It was lovely. E liked it so much she licked the plate clean (urgh). Not enough though. Given you can get an entire jam doughnut from Dunkin’ for a dollar, it’s a bit expensive but for an extravagant treat I may return and I won’t be sharing it.

Check it out below:

donut 1








donut 2








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The $10 breakfast

In the UK I don’t think I ever went out for breakfast. There were the times after school drop off when I was on maternity leave with J that I would stop for a cup of tea and a croissant at a local cafe in NW3. That was usually in addition to what I’d had at home and I was just being a bit of a pig, so it doesn’t count as breakfast. But here in New York it’s all about breakfast. Every diner is chocka with people filling up for the day.

My experience so far has been focused mainly on pancakes. I love pancakes. And we are talking about thick, large as dinner plates pancakes often filled with fruit and smothered in maple syrup. I have tried them in many diners now and they are good all of the time. I love them with apples and cinnamon and I love them with mushed up blueberries oozing out of the middle. Makes me hungry to think of it and it’s late afternoon here.

Most breakfasts I have tried have, with pancakes excepted, been a bit cheap. There’s a reason why the breakfast offering is cheap and that’s because the ingredients are cheap. Cardboard toast, Lipton tea (not proper tea, just a cup of hot water with a poor excuse for a teabag on the side in a little paper jacket), watered down orange juice and just as watery eggs. I avoid the places that do this and wonder why anyone still goes in to them, but they seem to do OK.

Friday just gone J and I tried a new place for breakfast and it was great. We had two massive pancakes, a side of scrambled egg, a glass of fresh orange juice that wasn’t watered down and a cup of tea (Liptons, but I’ll excuse it because the rest was so nice). Fabulous service, clean surroundings and a warm welcome for J. And we left stuffed for ten bucks including tax and tip. Amazing. I will miss this slither of New York life when we return to NW3. Maybe I will set up a diner and see if I can export this approach.

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I think we’re just out of Waldorfs

Let me take you back to the UK circa 1979 and and series 2, episode 3 of Fawlty Towers.

Basil Fawlty, proprietor of Fawlty Towers Hotel is playing chef to an American guest who asks:

“Could you make me a Waldorf salad?”

To which Basil, perplexed, tries to disguise his ignorance, responds:

“I think we’re just out of Waldorfs”

Later on, exasperated because he can’t find the ingredients to make the Waldorf salad, Basil Fawlty asks his wife Sybil:

“What is a Waldorf anyway? A walnut that’s gone off?”

She patiently explains to Basil that this salad is named after the Waldorf Hotel in New York.

And that’s where we were last night. I have to confess I didn’t remember this episode of Fawlty Towers, it was R who reminded me and I watched it earlier today on Netflix.

What a place. It is on Park Avenue at 50th Street and it’s huge! When you walk in you are confronted with some grand stairs and then you can’t help but look upwards to the incredibly high ceiling and opulent space. And as you continue walking you go past the Victorian clock, coming in at 2 tonnes, it’s a beast of a thing and so detailed in its decoration, it’s hard to take in.

We were there to check out the bar. Because we could. I couldn’t resist ordering the Waldorf Salad to eat at the bar, a high, smooth and rounded border to the well stocked bar and bar tenders who looked like they had been there forever.

Take a look at my photo below. Yes, it is a pile of apples, neatly cut up into match sticks with a few walnuts and grapes nestled underneath. I think I missed the celery, maybe it was disguised as an apple? Wondering what the circle with a hole is and what is poking through it? It’s dried apple with, I think, a sort of soft biscuit thingy. Technical, I know.

And the verdict? Well, now that I know that the Waldorf no longer uses mayonnaise and that my only experience of Waldorf salads to date is the mayonnaise laden version from Sainsbury’s, it explains why it looks nothing like I expected. But it kind of works, it’s pretty light but there are so many matchsticks (julienne, as they say) that it just takes forever to eat. I’d recommend stealing some steak from the person next to you (maybe introduce yourself first) as it makes a great accompaniment to all that healthy food!

Check out how to make the salad with guidance from a chef at the Waldorf on YouTube. Note how the presentation has changed since that video was made by Popsugar in 2011.

A Waldorf Salad at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel

A Waldorf Salad at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel



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Rice is nice

Whilst many tourists are going to SoHo for Balthazar and a French bistro style meal that is lovely but expensive, others are going the opposite way along Spring Street to buy their pudding from Rice to Riches. I see it’s been open for over ten years, but it looks super new inside, with wacky white and orange decor and comically named bowls for your rice pudding – including the Moby for those with large stomachs.

I have always been a fan of Ambrosia Rice Pudding and it is possible to get it here, in the British section of supermarkets for three times the price in Sainsbury’s. So I was pleased to find an entire shop dedicated to the humble rice pudding. How can you make it better than Ambrosia? Well, you can flavour it left, right and centre (center). You can bung in some cheesecake, some wild berries, chocolate etc. The list is extensive and changes according to the season.

And it’s cold. Did I say that? I always had my Ambrosia warmed up. Not here. It’s cold and I have to say it’s rather nice. And I liked the spoon too, despite the fact I managed to spill some on the table with every scoop, but I think that probably says more about me than the pudding.

And their advertising company is hilarious. The whole shop is festooned with comic lines related to rice pudding. I photographed a few to see here. Worth a trip – maybe skip the pudding in Balthazar and walk this way, you won’t regret it.

Rice to Riches


















And here's the pudding. Cinnamon and wild berries. Yum.

And here’s the pudding. Cinnamon and wild berries. Yum.

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Not quite Damien Hirst










Could be, though? Actually it’s the tea display in Argo Tea. I went into their Flatiron branch (just off 23rd Street and 5th Avenue) on a hot afternoon recently. I love tea. Have I said that before? So when it’s hot, I actively look for new and obscure iced tea varieties. I was excited at the sales pitch, where the nice man let me smell the tea, with a waft of the lid to exaggerate the effect. All very dramatic with their Damien Hirst inspired wall display and the wacky tea based cocktails. I tried hibiscus and apple. Verdict? Just like drinking a cheap squash from the 1970s. Not good. Sorry, Argo, but I won’t be back. Shame. Loved the spots.

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Munching in Madison

Madison Square Park is a new favourite area of New York for me. It’s right next to the Flatiron Building off 23rd Street and 5th Avenue. It plays host to outside art installations, a very popular branch of the burger selling Shake Shack and a great playground for toddlers.

But today, just outside the park was a new outside food venue featuring all sorts of different food vendors. It was packed today, as New York basked in some unusual sunshine.

Eat at Mad. Sq. Park











I had just eaten lunch at the ever fabulous Eataly nearby, so wandering round it with a full belly wasn’t ideal. But is was packed with office workers seeking new and exciting lunch options. My favourite was the exotic cannolis. I have a bit of a thing about these little hard tubes of pastry filled loveliness and it’s the first time I’ve seen them with different fillings. So I bought 6 to try them out. Chocolate and mint; pistachio; and original with gooey cream and chocolate chips. Yum. Check out Stuffed Artisan Cannolis to find out more.

madison 2

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Cupcake crazy

Yes, here in New York City and I think in America in general, people love cupcakes. Can’t say I’m a fan, but they are hugely popular and can be found in a huge variety of flavours. Large ones cost around $4 and in terms of calories, you’ll rarely find any under 300 with many at around the 500 mark. I’d rather get my calories from a scone or a Danish pastry. Anyway, enough of that.

Last week we had Macaroon Day  and today we have Cupcake day. The cupcake company, Sprinkles, got masses of press today as they launched their first cupcake ATM in the city. Yes, that’s right. A cupcake vending machine, dispensing $4.25 cupcakes 24 hours a day! Like you need one at 4am.

We were at Central Park Zoo earlier today and given this is over on Lexington Avenue at 60th Street, we thought we’d go over and have a look.

ccake 1











The queue wasn’t very long and there were more people from the press than customers. I’m probably on some TV coverage on some obscure NY channel now. So after waiting about 10 minutes we had our turn. The ATM is very pink and metallic.

ccake 2









There is a fairly standard touch screen to follow instructions and the flavours for the day are displayed for you to choose (see below).  The cake is then dispensed from the door to the right. It does look a bit like its run by small pixies pulling up a door, not very smooth or elegant, but it does the job.

ccake 3









It would have been a lot quicker to have just gone into the shop and bought one, but the ceremony is fun and if you do get the urge to eat cupcakes after 8pm, you know where to go!