nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic

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I could hardly contain myself in the queue at Fairway this morning. An entire section dedicated to Christmas and an English Christmas at that! There were Maltesers in the shape of Christmas crackers, boxes of jelly babies, selection boxes filled with McVities biscuits and even selection boxes of chocolates like I had when I was a kid.

But most exciting of all was the jars of mincemeat to make mince pies. Mince pies! I didn’t see one here last year and I certainly didn’t see any mincemeat. I was so excited I made some this afternoon.  Unfortunately I can’t find any icing sugar here, so they don’t have that lovely dusted with snow look. They were so nice, warm out of the oven with a cup of Darjeeling tea. E said the pastry was a bit bland picked out the mincemeat and left the pastry. Tut, tut, fussy so and so. Here’s the result.











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A trip down Canal

Off to Chinatown today. I’m searching out exotic ingredients for a special Valentine curry. Yes, I know, romantic stuff. I like Chinatown, I like that Canal subway station has a lift and when you pop out on to Canal (the street) it’s like being in another world. It’s a Wednesday lunchtime, so not busy and there are only a few tourists around. There’s a calm about the place, with locals shopping, eating and walking with a purpose in the bitter cold. I am heartened by the great people in the Bangkok Center Grocery store on Mosco (yep, no w in Chinatown) Street and the masterful way they took my recipe and found almost everything I needed. I am brave and go into two Chinese bakeries and buy random nice looking cakes and buns with the hope of liking something new (and I do – I like Taro buns!).

And after a lovely trip out, I come across these t-shirts hanging from a tourist shop. Who would wear these?

Tourist t-shirts

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The prawn hierarchy

In the UK we say ‘prawn’, in the US they say ‘shrimp’. Fair enough. I am used to this. In the UK they generally come in small plastic boxes with cellophane lids and cost about 3 quid, depending if Sainsbury’s has an offer on at the time. Occasionally you see them raw and grey, but mostly people buy them cooked and pink. In New York, in Fairway’s of course, they have fresh shrimp, cooked or raw. They aren’t the same size as those in Sainsbury’s, they are huge. The smallest ones are called Extra Large; the next size up is Jumbo. Normally that’s it, there’s no medium sized, or just right sized, or small (nothing is small). No, today, we were offered Colossal shrimp. Colossal? Really? I mean they were quite large and I would have been terrified to cook them, but colossal? Honestly, what’s wrong with small, medium and large?

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Thanks, Fresh Direct!

It’s Thanksgiving today, our first one, as we just missed it last year. We decided to take the plunge and let Fresh Direct sort out the dinner. They are an Ocado-style supermarket delivery service. I ordered the entire meal from them with a view to not having to do very much. This is what it looked like out of the box:








So here’s the verdict:

  1. When ordering your turkey dinner know what you are ordering. Think you are ordering a fresh turkey that has to be cooked from scratch? Think again. You have ordered a pre-cooked turkey that you will re-heat. You will discuss in detail with husband about said turkey timings comparing Delia Smith to Fresh Direct and saying you will go with Delia, because she’s British. But no, on second or third reading of the helpful Fresh Direct cooking guide provided with your meal, that it is indeed pre-cooked so you are just reheating. Ignore Delia and proceed.
  2. Sellotape Fresh Direct instructions to wall by cooker and follow religiously (see below).










You can’t read this very well, but essentially it says heat and eat food. We had creamed spinach, mashed potato, roasted root vegetables and forgot to heat the beans, so they are still in the microwave. There was gravy and cranberry sauce and a pile of ‘dinner rolls’ which were basically little rectangle white bread rolls. 

R is obsessed with bread sauce, so I cracked open the Delia Smith cookbook and made some, starting at 8am with infusing the milk. Many wife brownie points earnt there. It was lovely, but not as nice as his mum’s.

So here is the finished product:








All in all a very nice, if overly salty meal. It involved very little effort from me, a lot of plastic for the recyling and enormous plates to accommodate it all. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

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It’s crazy in here

It’s Labor Day here in the US (yes, it does look weird without the ‘u’). It’s basically a late summer bank holiday and is often cited as the unofficial end of summer. And it seems that this is the day that lots of people return to NYC after summers spent in the Hamptons and other exotic Long Island locations. It’s all very Revenge, if you’ve ever watched that ridiculous but compelling TV programme.

I made a quick visit to Fairway and it was packed with people stocking up and the queues snaked around the store. I have a love hate relationship with Fairway, as I struggle to come to turns with their uneven customer service, but today they coped superbly with the queues and I sped through. The British section was eerily quiet but full of Walkers Prawn Cocktail crisps, which have gone up from 99c to $1.19 since we started buying them, I think we forced the price up all by ourselves. I mention this because it has a new sign, which was hard to photograph because the aisle is narrow, so I will transpose the text below if you can’t quite see it. It’s great:

“A Union Jack here would be trite. And Pandering. We’re above that. Suffice to say here are the icon staples of British life that we import way out of our way to sooth the savage beast who thinks we’re just a bunch of heathens.”

I couldn’t get the picture of the Union Jack painted sports car on the right hand side, which is possibly British made.


blog pic sign

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Let’s talk about coleslaw

Yes, I know this is possibly not the most interesting topic in the world, but it’s on my mind and I feel the need to vent. I like coleslaw, I like the combination of shredded cabbage and carrot in a pleasant mayonnaise that I can add to my sandwich. I like it on ham and I like it on cheese. I quite like it on a baked potato too. It is a savoury snack. Not a sweet snack. I hate coleslaw in the US. What do they do to it that makes is so incredibly sweet? I know, I’ll pour some sugar into the mayonnaise just to up the calorie count. Great idea. And whilst I’m on about it, when I ask for a quarter pound (yes, the US still uses Imperial, an entirely separate subject to rant about) I want 0.25 of a pound, also known as 4 ounces. But no, you always get more and today I was given 0.42, which is pretty much half a pound. I was experimenting with a new source of coleslaw from Sable’s and it was equally hideous. I have, however, discovered the answer to this problem. Low fat coleslaw, sometimes known as ‘healthy coleslaw’ – ahem, I don’t think there’s anything particularly healthy about coleslaw, either way it’s mayonnaise and that’s pretty fattening. But hey, by making it low fat all the sugar seems to disappear. I now have the answer. Try Morton Williams deli or Fairways to see what I mean.

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It pays to tip well in New York

Every weekend I loyally go to Fairways for my weekly shop. It’s not quite as good as driving to Sainsbury’s, but I’ve got used to it. I started off by being really friendly to the staff, expecting them to comment on my accent and be nice back. But no, it doesn’t work like that, so I stopped bothering. The staff are helpful but not friendly, they all speak Spanish to each other and pretty much ignore you. On a more positive note they do pack your bags and offer a delivery service.

Today it was raining and cold. I did my thing, wandered around my usual circuit and expected no interaction. I was stunned when the guy who served me on the deli counter asked me if I was Australian or English. He must have served me dozens of times before and now he decides to be friendly and ask a question. The cheese guy corrects my pronunciation of Comte cheese and smiles. What is going on?

At the checkout I witness the woman at the checkout next to me having to justify the type of beans she has bought because the cashier won’t let her use her coupon. She says chick peas are not beans. Come on, give her a break, she wants to save 50 cents or something like that and they are giving her a hard time because it doesn’t say beans on the tin and she has six tins to get the discount. They are mean to her. Then my cashier starts giving me grief because my food is perishable they don’t want to risk delivering it. What? It’s cold outside and raining; they aren’t busy, they usually deliver pretty quick and I’m prepared to take the risk that my milk might go off. It won’t!  Urgh. My unusually pleasant experience is blighted by the perishable policy being invoked. I threaten to use Fresh Direct but they don’t seem to care. They take $85k a week in this store so my dollars are insignificant. I recognise the delivery guy and explain my plight. He says I tip the best in my building, so he’ll take my delivery straight away. It pays to tip well in New York.