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A Manhattan View

Manhattan View

Arguably one of the most recognisable in the world, the Manhattan skyline is pretty impressive to behold. And there are a million and one ways to see it. You can climb to the top one of the very buildings that make the Manhattan skyline so memorable. Or, my personal favourite, you can drink in the view with a cocktail in hand at one of the many rooftop bars in NYC.

The Empire State Building vs. the Top of the Rock

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Top: The Chrysler Building seen from the Empire State Building
Bottom: The Empire State Building seen from the Top of the Rock

In my five months in New York, I made it to the top of the Empire State Building twice (once during the day, once at night) and to the Top of the Rock (at the Rockefeller Centre) only once. And despite going back up the Empire State for a second time, I would have to say the Top of the Rock wins hand down.

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Night at the Empire State Building

While the view is still beautiful, the main problem with being on top of the Empire State Building is that you can’t see the Empire State Building. That, and the view to Central Park is blocked by the rival Rockefeller Centre. From the Top of the Rock, however, you can see the Empire State Building to the south AND Central Park to the north. It is definitely my pick of the two.

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Looking north from Top of the Rock

And if you do decide to go with the Empire State Building, my one piece of advice is to avoid what is called the NY Skyride. What can only be described as an “interesting” experience, the NY Skyride is a simulated helicopter-come-spaceship ride through New York City. Sold to us as the perfect introduction to NYC, the only thing the Skyride will do is confuse your understanding of the city’s geography and make you laugh in disbelief that you paid for 30-minutes of Kevin Bacon’s voice narrating you through an 80s streetscape of Manhattan, complete with a surprise shark in the Hudson River. Proceed with caution.

Rooftop Bars

Cocktails at a rooftop bar is an absolute must-do when in New York. I was lucky to make it to quite a few during my stay. Here are my picks for the best spots to grab a drink with a Manhattan view.

Le Bain at the Standard (444 W13th Street, Meatpacking District, New York, between Washington Street & 10th Avenue)

Le Bain is a pumping nightclub and rooftop bar at the Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking District. This is the place to dance the night away against the beautiful backdrop of the Manhattan skyline. Ironically, the best view by far is from the bathrooms. And if you’re after a more laid back vibe, the rooftop is the place to be.

Chloe & Alex at Le Bain

Chloe & Alex at Le Bain

The Press Lounge at Ink48 (653 11th Avenue, Hells Kitchen, New York, between W47th & W48th Street)

The Press Lounge is great for some more laid back drinks with friends. With a view of the city from the West, the skyline is there to be seen in all its glory. This is the perfect place to see Manhattan during the winter as the enclosed area keeps the warmth in, while floor to ceiling glass allows for uninterrupted views of the city. You might want to prepare your wallets though, the view at the Press Lounge comes with a price. The drinks are great, but not cheap. For those of us whose wallets don’t stretch very far, this might just be the perfect venue to start the night with a view and a drink, before moving on to somewhere more affordable.

But no matter which way you do it, whether you’re the cocktail type or not, gaining a Manhattan view is something you just have to do when you’re in New York.

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A Coffee Lover’s Guide to New York City

Coffee

Good coffee is a rare commodity in America. In my five months there I made it somewhat of a mission to find where the good coffee was hiding. And I did manage to find some.

New York City is a bit of a haven for food and coffee lovers alike, but you do have to do a bit of research to find where to go. Here are my picks for the best coffee I found in NYC.

Manhattan

Ninth Street Espresso

My first good coffee experience in the US was three weeks into my trip at Ninth Street Espresso at the Chelsea Market in New York. It was like heaven in a cup. And I could not have been happier that New York was going to be my home for five months. With three locations in Lower Manhattan, this place is reserved for trendy New Yorkers and those that enjoy a good brew.

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Joe Coffee

Joe Coffee certainly has made a name for itself as one of the premier places to enjoy coffee in New York. I had heard and read a lot about the place before I got to try it so expectations were high. And I wasn’t disappointed. The best part, with eight locations scattered across Manhattan, you don’t have to go far to find a good coffee.

Irving Farm Coffee Roasters

I stumbled upon the Irving Farm Coffee Roasters one afternoon when I was touristing around the Upper West Side. I had heard nothing of this little cafe so it was a bit of a gamble going in. But I was very pleasantly surprised. Found at three locations in Manhattan, it is definitely worth a try.

Brooklyn

Brooklyn Roasting Company

This is another place I just happened to stumble upon in my travels. And if you do venture over the bridge to Brooklyn (which I highly recommend), then it is definitely worth a visit. The coffee is delicious and the place just oozes cool.

Photos: Lauren Waldhuter

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Where to Eat: The Cities of North America

Where to Eat

A collection of just some of the places to eat in just some of North America’s cities. As a herbivore this list does have a slight vegetarian focus, but in my very objective opinion as the writer of this blog, I believe it is relevant for all people that love good food, good coffee and good vibes. It is, of course, alphabetised by city. 

Boston

In Boston I got lucky and booked a hostel right in Chinatown. With many restaurants right on my doorstep, it was hard to go wrong.

My Thai Vegan Cafe (3 Beach Street)

Don’t be put off by the creepy looking stairs you have to climb to get there, the vegan Pad Thai was delicious.

Dumpling Cafe (695 Washington Street)

This is just one of the many dumpling houses in Boston’s Chinatown. If dumplings is your thing, you will not be disappointed.

Quincy Market (Faneuil Hall, 4 South Market Street)

Quincy Market is a great place to stop for lunch. They have an enormous variety of foods from all around the world – it took me 15 minutes before deciding on a delicious Greek falafel wrap. Once you’ve made a decision, you can then take a seat in the central rotunda, which is particularly cosy on a cold and rainy day (a regular occurrence when in Boston).

Thinking Cup (165 Tremont Street)

Overlooking the Boston Common, this is the perfect place for a quick warm-me-up coffee before heading off on the Freedom Trail tourist walk.

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Crema (27 Brattle Street, Cambridge)

The perfect coffee pitstop for anyone that ventures on over to have a look around Cambridge.

Chicago

Exchequer Restaurant & Pub (226 S. Wabash Avenue)

Chicago is famous for its deep dish pizza. So when I found myself in this pretty low key pub I just had to order myself a deep dish pizza with mushrooms, spinach and feta. I was in pizza heaven. But you should be warned, it is certainly not a meal for one and, due to its size, cooking time can be upwards of 40 minutes. But if you love pizza, it is well worth the wait and will not disappoint.

Intelligentsia (53 W. Jackson Boulevard)

It didn’t take me long to track down Chicago’s best coffee. Intelligentsia is well-known in Chicago for serving up the city’s best coffee. With another six locations in Chicago and more around the country, I was lucky to stumble across this place on my first day in the city.

Las Vegas

Caesars Palace Bacchanal Buffet (3570 Las Vegas Boulevard South)

If you’re awake early enough for brunch (that is, before 3pm), then this buffet at Caesars Palace is a must. First and foremost, they offer unlimited mimosas – very important. Second, they offer a range of different cuisines from all around the world – American, Mexican, Italian, Japanese, Chinese. There is also a bread bar with all kinds of different freshly baked breads and a seafood bar if lobster is your thing. And the best part of this buffet has to be the dessert bar. With crepes made-to-order, mini-desserts, limitless house-made ice-cream and mountains of macarons, I was in heaven.

Los Angeles

In LA it is somewhat more of a challenge to find vegetarian-appropriate food. Mexican was my go-to cuisine in Los Angeles. Tip number one for being a vegetarian in America, when it all gets too hard, there is always Mexican.

Original Farmers Market (6333 W. 3rd Street, Hollywood)

I love a good Farmers Market and, if you do too, this place is well worth a visit. There are many food vendors selling all different foods and it is a great place for lunch. The market itself has a long and rich history and is an interesting place to visit even if you’re not hungry.

New Orleans

New Orleans is also not the most vegetarian-friendly city. Traditional New Orleans foods like gumbo or jambalaya almost always have some sort of meat included. While others were able to indulge in these southern delicacies, I stuck to the less traditional vegetarian pastas and the like.

Cafe du Monde (800 Decatur Street)

This New Orleans institution is famous for their beignets. Beignets are French-style square-shaped doughnuts covered in a mountain of icing sugar. A definite must when in the Big Easy.

New York City

Even after spending many a weekend in the city, I had barely scratched the surface of the NYC food scene. I was able to come to the conclusion, however, that New York City is spoilt for choice when it comes to good food. And a little research will get you very far here. 

Brunch is a New York City institution and a must if you want to experience the city like a local. Here are my picks for the best brunch in NYC.

Good coffee in America is hard to find. So if coffee is your vice, then you will need to do some research and seek out the good stuff. Here my top picks for a good coffee in NYC.

Vinegar Hill House (72 Hudson Avenue, Brooklyn)

Brooklyn is a haven for foodies and Vinegar Hill House is just one of the great restaurants found in this area. It is pure decadence and while it may be a little on the expensive side, it is definitely worth it. With great food, great service and a great atmosphere, this place is perfect for a special night out.

Five Leaves (18 Bedford Avenue, Greenpoint, Brooklyn)

Also in Brooklyn, Five Leaves is well worth the extra effort it takes to get there. It is always bustling with the coolest humans and boasts some delicious food. Dinner can be expensive, but this place is also open for a more affordable breakfast and lunch.

Chelsea Market (75 9th Avenue, between 15th and 16th Streets)

Located in the trendy Meatpacking District, the Chelsea Market is one of my favourite places to go in Manhattan. With a variety of different food to choose from, this market is a great place to sit, have lunch and people watch.

Magnolia Bakery (401 Bleecker Street and W. 11th Street)

Made famous by appearing in just one episode of Sex in the City, the Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street is always full of people. And their cupcakes do not fail to live up to their fame. With numerous locations around the city, I kept going back for more almost every time I went to the city.

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Orlando

Orlando is an unusual city – it seems to be inhabited solely by tourists and as a result, the cuisine on offer is fairly limited. Theme parks and unhealthy food always seem to go hand in hand, so finding anything healthy is almost impossible, let alone finding anything for vegetarians. “I’ll have a chicken burger with no chicken, thanks!” If you’re a vegetarian like me my advice here is to suck it up and make it work. After all, you’re not in Orlando for the food.

Philadelphia

Franklin Fountain (116 Market Street)

An old fashioned ice-creamery, Franklin Fountain is located in the Old City of Philadelphia. Well worth a visit if you like baseball-sized scoops of home-made ice-cream served up by cute humans wearing bow-ties and hats.

Reading Terminal Market (12 & Arch Streets)

This market is a great place to grab lunch. The markets are huge and home to heaps of market vendors, including those run by the Armish community. I ate at the all-vegetarian place, the Basic Four Vegetarian Snack Bar. This place is worth a walk around even if you aren’t hungry. The market has a vibrant atmosphere with a number of quirky vendors selling weird and wonderful food items – I found some ear-shaped chocolates aptly named after the famous lover of ears, Mike Tyson.

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San Diego

There are many places to eat in San Diego. Little Italy is a great spot for a quiet and authentic Italian meal. The Gaslamp Quarter is a bit more lively, with two streets lined with a variety of bars and restaurants. After dark the atmosphere in this area is great. I’d suggest having a wander through before choosing from one of the many restaurants on offer.

San Francisco

The Mission District is the place for good food in San Fran.

Gracias Madre (2211 Mission Street)

I had a delicious meal at this Mexican restaurant on Mission Street. All organic, all vegan, and all yummy. It made for a great hangover cure, sans the grease and fat.

Tartine Bakery & Cafe (600 Guerrero Street)

Also in the Mission District, this bakery is super popular and always busy. I indulged in a delicious frangipane tart and wish I’d had more time in San Fran to keep going back to this place.

Santa Monica

Santa Monica was where I arrived for my first day in America and where I had my first taste of American food. And to my surprise, it was really good.

Interim Cafe (530 Wilshire Boulevard)

This place serves up amazing burgers, both meat and non-meat, as well as delicious smoothies. Well worth a visit for a more healthy option in Santa Monica.

South Beach, Miami

South Beach at Miami does not offer a lot of variety in terms of dining. There is restaurant after restaurant on Ocean Drive all offering very similar and unfortunately usually quite tacky tourist menus. Offering a bit more variety and a somewhat nicer atmosphere, Lincoln Road might be a better choice for dinner. Miami isn’t cheap though, but you can however eat at almost any time you like. Most people have dinner around 9 or 10pm – I even had dinner after 11pm one night.

Toronto

With 9 days spent in Toronto (thanks to Hurricane Sandy) I was able to get a good feel for the city’s food scene.

O.NOIR (620 Church Street)

A restaurant like no other, this place was by far the highlight for me in Toronto. The twist – you eat in complete darkness. It is such an incredible concept and made for an incredible experience. I would recommend O.NOIR to anyone visiting Toronto.

Kensington Market

Kensington Market is well worth a look for any visitor to Toronto. Good shopping, decent coffee and some great places to eat. I stopped in at Urban Herbivore for a fresh juice and salad sandwich.

Bull Dog Coffee (89 Granby Street)

Located just around the corner from where I was staying, this place quickly became my regular hang out. Perhaps hard to believe when I only spent nine days in Toronto, but they serve a decent coffee and often had delicious pastries on offer for when I felt like something sweet.

Dark Horse Espresso Bar (125 John Street; 684 Queen Street West; 682 Queen Street East; and, 215 Spadina Avenue)

I did manage to branch out and try some of the other coffee on offer in Toronto. With four locations around the city and a reputation for serving up a mean espresso, Dark Horse Espresso Bar was possibly the best. This is my number one recommendation if you are looking for a good coffee in Toronto.

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Washington, DC

Busboys & Poets (2021 14th St NW. & 1025 5th Street NW.)

I loved this restaurant so much I went back every night I was in town. They have a great selection for vegetarians and the place has so much character. There a two locations, but I spent my nights at the one on 14th and V. With a bookstore inside specialising in books on activism and the occasional poetry slam, this place was great for the atmosphere alone. If you are keen on hearing some poetry, make sure you get in early, it was booked out on all the nights I was in town.

 

Brunch, a New York City Institution

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The NYC brunch is no ordinary brunch. New Yorkers seem to forget that “brunch” is supposed to be a breakfast-come-lunch affair. Instead, brunch rarely occurs before midday and it often lasts all afternoon.

Restaurants cater to this phenomenon with many offering good value weekend specials. My favourite: the boozy kind. In my four months living in New York I managed to squeeze in quite a few brunch dates. And it quickly became my favourite thing to do in the city.

Often you can simply wander through the Lower West or Lower East neighbourhoods of Manhattan and stumble upon a good deal. Or you can do a bit of research beforehand and find exactly what you are looking for. Bookings are rare for groups smaller than 6, so more often than not you’ll have to wait for a table.

NYC is full of different places that serve up a good brunch, but these are a few of my favourite places where you can experience a true New York City brunch.

The Boozy Kind

It isn’t a true NYC brunch without some sort of booze. These brunch places offer weekend specials that include both food AND alcohol. Bottomless, unlimited alcohol. Sometimes with a time limit, sometimes without.

Tre (173 Ludlow Street, New York, between East Houston and Stanton)

Tre is a cute, Italian place with great food and a classy atmosphere. And for only $21.95, you will get a meal and unlimited Champagne, Mimosas and Bellinis.

On a nice day the courtyard out the back is the place to be. The tables are covered in cute checked red-and-white tablecloths giving it an authentic Italian feel. The champagne is quality so there is no need to mask it with any juice. And the food is delicious.

Water served in mason jars are sure to keep the Lower East Side hipsters happy. And while drinks are limited to an hour and a half, there is still certainly enough time to fit in more than a few glasses of champagne.

This is the place for a more classy boozy brunch.

Agave (140 7th Avenue, New York, between Charles and West 10th)

Keeping with the fancier theme, Agave is a boozy brunch complete with white table cloths. Located in the West Village, this Mexican restaurant offers frozen Margaritas along with the standard Mimosas.

A little bit more on the expensive side, $24.95 will get you 2 hours of bottomless wine, Mimosas or frozen Margaritas plus any egg item. Now this may sound like a disappointing offer (apologies to anyone who doesn’t enjoy a good egg dish), but their egg menu is pretty impressive. Even the vegetarian in me can’t help but be impressed with a menu that includes “Lobster Benedict”.

And if that doesn’t impress you, the 2 hours of bottomless booze should make up for it. It’s surprising how many frozen Margaritas can be consumed in that time.

So if you’re a fan of eggs, enjoy a bit of Mexican and like your Margaritas, then don’t miss out on this boozy brunch.

The Delicious Kind

While the boozy brunch spots I mentioned above do serve up delicious food too, the following places don’t have any alcohol included as part of the brunch special, but are worthy of a special mention for their food alone.

Cafe Mogador (101 St Marks Place, New York, between 1st Avenue and Avenue A)

Brunch at the Cafe Mogador is in high demand on the weekends, but is well worth the wait. Like Agave, it is another all-egg menu (sorry egg-haters), but this time with a Moroccan twist.

For the very small price of $14, you get the choice of an egg dish (the Moroccan Benedict is the most popular), a fresh orange juice and a coffee. And their coffee is good, a definite luxury in America.

And if you can’t bear to do a brunch without some alcohol, for a little extra cash you can add some booze. The Blood Orange Mimosas can be hard to resist.

Clinton Street Baking Co. & Restaurant (4 Clinton Street, New York, between East Houston and Stanton)

Clinton Street Baking Co. & Restaurant is another brunch that is in high demand on the weekends. I managed to get myself there on a weekday to avoid the long wait. It was under a friend’s recommendation that I spent a bit of time in this cute little cafe escaping from the weather one rainy day in New York.

They have fresh juices for the health conscious and milkshakes (made with ice cream from Brooklyn) for the not-so-healthy decadent types. And above all else, this place is known for having some of the best pancakes in New York. And they do not disappoint.

This little gem of a cafe in the Lower East Side is the perfect place for an afternoon of decadence.

Edi and the Wolf (102 Avenue C, New York, between 6th and 7th)

Hands down, Edi and the Wolf was the single most delicious brunch I had while in NYC.

For only $18 this trendy little place will serve you a delicious meal, a coffee, a choice between fresh OJ or warm cider (perfect in the colder months) AND a basket of baked goodies including croissants and pain au chocolat.

And the food was to die for. The baked goods were fresh and came out in cute miniature-sized pieces (always my favourite). The OJ was fresh. And the coffee was so good that I had to have a second.

This is a place for hipsters, coffee-snobs and food-lovers alike.

Brunch is a New York City institution. The best advice I can give is to do your research. You really haven’t done New York if you haven’t done brunch.

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Updated 11 August 2014.

Sitting Still

Sitting Still

“Sit still!”

Since arriving home from five months in the US one of my very close friends told me this in exasperation.

Home for two weeks and I had started my own jewellery business. Better yet, home for seven days and I had already booked flights to Fiji.

It was the last day of 2012 and I could think of no better way to bring in the new year. As one amazing adventure came to an end, I had another new and exciting one to look forward to.

America had been incredible. 147 days. Ten US states. One Canadian province. And countless new memories.

Many new friends and some old ones too. A lot of bad coffee and some very good cocktails. Men doing handstands in underwear and planes without pilots. Fetishes for hand-puppets and the occasional dinner in the dark. My first Halloween and surviving a hurricane. An Elvis wedding in Vegas and, of course, the swingers from Texas.

I loved America more than I thought I ever would. And there is still so much left to see. But for now I have Fiji on my horizon.

I won’t be sitting still for a long time. Perhaps not ever.