So, after the Smorgasburg food extravaganza and a scenic ferry ride back into Manhattan, DC and I headed back to his place to chill out before dinner in true New York style – drinking beers on his building’s outdoor terrace. Yes, that really is as awesome as it sounds. Just look at this place!

Rooftop terrace in New York City

A couple of hours later, we headed to St. Mark’s Place in the East Village. This area seemed really popular. There were a lot of Asian-fusion restaurants, a few karaoke places and even a Japadog, which is a popular street cart turned restaurant in Vancouver.

Dinner that night was at Boka for their infamous Bon Chon Chicken.  My friend Saschie had raved about this place and even DC agreed that it was a must-try while in New York City.

Bon Chon Chicken drumsticks and wings from Boka in New York City

Basically, bon chon is Korean-style fried chicken. The skin is deep fried twice, making it super crispy and leaving the meat very moist and juicy. We ordered the wings and drumsticks combo tossed in a sweet and tangy soy-garlic sauce.

Tuna tartar salad from Boka in New York City

We also grabbed a plate of the Tuna Tartar Salad. It came with these deep fried sweet potato chips that were lightly seasoned and great for heaping spoonfuls of the creamy tuna into your mouth. Or, in our case, just snacking on since the 1 pound of bon chon chicken turned out to be the best-worst idea ever.

Honestly, as good as it looked and as amazing as it tasted, there was just SO. MUCH. CHICKEN. It was enough to almost make me not want to eat chicken again for the rest of my trip. Almost.

Salty pimp ice cream cone - chocolate dipped vanilla cone with salt and dulce de leche - from the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop

Miraculously though, after hobbling out of Boka, I got my second wind and we walked a few blocks to the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop. I’d seen the food truck version on Eat St. and was so excited to try it that I didn’t mind the 20-minute wait. What I did mind was that my Salty Pimp tasted neither salty nor anything more amazing than a chocolate dipped vanilla ice cream cone. There was barely any dulce de leche on it either. Sigh. I seriously could’ve just gone to Dairy Queen.

Cocktails from The Wren bar in New York City

That mishap aside, we proceeded to The Wren for some drinks with school friends of mine from the Philippines. Alex now lives in Queens while Marco was visiting from out of town. It was surreal to see these guys in my part of the world after so many years apart, but definitely great to catch up and see familiar faces at the same time.

Most of the bars in NYC have no cover – yes, even on a Saturday night! – so barhopping was a must. If we didn’t like one place, we’d pop out after a few minutes and walk right into another one. We went to so many that I can’t even remember what they were called anymore. We even managed to find one of those bars that from the outside look abandoned, but once you go inside, it’s actually a really swanky underground club.

New York style cheese pizza in new york city

We ended the night with classic New York pizza and I finally crawled to bed close to 5am, ending what was probably the longest Saturday of my life – enough for three blog posts anyway!

How would you spend a Saturday night in a new city?

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Growing up, there was only one restaurant that I ever wanted to go to: Red Lobster.

Lobster print chairs in Luke's restaurant in New York City

The funny thing is that I actually used to hate the taste of lobster since I thought it tasted too much like the ocean. I only ever looked forward to Red Lobster trips because of the warm, buttery, flakey biscuits that came to the table with the appetizers. It was melt in your mouth delicious.

Storefront of Luke's in New York City

But luckily, my taste buds have grown up and I’ve discovered that lobster can also be packed with melt in your mouth goodness. Like the famous Lobster Rolls at Luke’s.

I’ve never had one of these badass sandwiches before. Each roll was packed with sweet, huge pieces of lobster meat. Every little bit was drenched in a light herb dressing and tons of butter.

Luke's lobster roll in New York City

The roll was also soft and buttery, and managed to hold all that meat without falling apart. Though the lobster roll could’ve been a meal on its own, I’m of the opinion that life is better with side dishes, so I grabbed a bag of Cape Cod kettle cooked Sweet Mesquite BBQ potato chips and washed everything down with the refreshing Maine Root Blue Berry Soda.

Maine Roote Blueberry Soda and Cape Cod  Kettle Chips at Luke's in New York City

Where was the best lobster roll you ever had?

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Stop the presses – I just discovered quinoa! I’m a little late on this trend, I know. And yes. Yes I think I’m in love. This magical, super “grain-like crop” (Wikipedia’s words, not mine) is really easy to cook with and good for you in all kinds ways. It also played nice with me my very first time cooking with it – no fire extinguisher or Tums were necessary during the making of this dish.

Quick and easy Quinoa by Karra Barron. Cooked Quinoa is mixed together with carrots onions, bacon, shredded chicken, parsley and thyme. Cooked asparagus is served on the side.

Here’s a quick and dirty recipe that I put together with a mish-mash of stuff I had in my fridge/pantry.

Chop up 4 strips of bacon and sauté it on medium heat with 1tsp olive oil and 1/2C chopped red onion. Season with some salt and pepper. When bacon is cooked and onion is somewhat translucent, remove from pan and set aside.

Pour in 1/2C white wine to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Scrape up all that brown bacon goodness you see. Yes, I know you see it. That’s flavour and it’s delicious. Cook down wine for about a minute.

Picture of quinoa grains in a bag - Karra Barron

Meanwhile, rinse 1C quinoa two times, then strain out excess water. Go back to the pan and pour in 2C water, the quinoa, and 1/2C chopped carrots. Toss in a few sprigs of fresh thyme, a dash of salt and a pinch of pepper. Once water boils, turn heat down to low, cover pot, and let cook for fifteen minutes.

You’ll know the quinoa is cooked when it goes translucent and the white germ (kind of looks like its tail) is visible. Also, 99.9% of the water should be gone (aka absorbed by the quinoa).

Picture of cooked bacon and red onions that were sauteed together for easy and quick quinoa recipe

Add 1C shredded chicken, 1/4C chopped parsley, and reserved bacon and red onion. Mix together and taste to see if it needs to be seasoned more. Makes 3-4 servings.

Finished quick and easy quinoa dish close up

Ingredients

4 strips of bacon, chopped
½C red onion, chopped
1tsp olive oil
½C white wine
1C quinoa
2C water
½C carrot, peeled and chopped
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1C shredded chicken, hot
¼C parsley, chopped
Salt
Pepper

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Who knew that my first time taking the New York subway would be to travel to the birthplace of Sean Carter (aka Jigga-whaaattt)? Yep, I was headed to Brooklyn. Well, Williamsburg, to be exact.

This suburb is credited as the place where man first donned his tightest pair of skinny jeans, put on thick-framed black glasses to cover up his 20/20 vision, and decided to henceforth call himself a hipster.

But I wasn’t here to find irony. I was here to eat.

Food at Smorgasburg Flea Food Market in New York

I’d learned about the Smorgasburg Flea Food Market while doing research for August events in NYC. There are two markets that happen every Saturday – one by the East River and the other by the DUMBO waterfront. We checked out the East River market since it was the easiest for us to get to.

Emerging from the subway and into this part of New York was interesting. Manhattan had this way of making me feel like everything I did needed to be done FAST. I had to walk faster, gobble down my delicious food, and pretty much enjoy myself much more quickly. It was like a 24/7 adrenaline rush and, oddly enough, I was happy to be swept up in it.

Williamsburg, suburb of Brooklyn in New York City

Street art in Williamsburg, a suburb of Brooklyn in New York City

Brooklyn, on the other hand, was just like any other suburb in Vancouver. People still seemed like they had places to go and things to do, but they didn’t mind if they stopped for a coffee along the way. It was calmer here. Like you could have a normal life if you didn’t want to get caught up in the glamour and drama of the city.

The market was set up in an empty lot across from the East River Ferry Terminal by Schaeffer Landing and it was packed with vendors offering up tons of tasty morsels and mouth-watering drinks. Being so close to the water, you were also surrounded by views of the New York skyline and Williamsburg Bridge, giving your eyes even more of a feast.

View of New York City from Smoargasburg Food Festival in Brooklyn, New York

After making a lap around the lot, we decided to cool ourselves off with a drink from Brooklyn Soda Works. DC and I were such huge fans of their tangy and refreshing Apple Ginger that we went back for it two more times! I also really wanted to try the Lumpia Shack, since this was the first time I’d ever heard of anyone taking the classic Filipino spring roll mainstream.

Brooklyn Sodaworks sign in Smorgasburg Flea Food Market in Brooklyn, New York City

Apple Ginger drink from Brooklyn Sodaworks sign in Smorgasburg Flea Food Market in Brooklyn, New York City

Lumpia is traditionally made with a mixture of seasoned ground pork, green onions, carrots, and beaten egg all rolled up into a dumpling wrapper and then, pan-fried. Every Filipino mom has a different way of making these (and everyone will tell you their mom makes it the best).

Lumpia Shack offered not only the original lumpia and a fresh vegetable version (“Lolo’s Fresh Lumpia”), but modern fusion renditions as well. I opted for the tasty, albeit greasy, Peking Duck with green onions and hoisin.

Peking Duck lumpia from Lumpia Shack in Smorgasburg Flea Food Market in Brooklyn, New York City

Fresh lumpia from Lumpia Shack in Smorgasburg Flea Food Market in Brooklyn, New York City

I also snagged a homemade strawberry pop tart from Anarchy in a Jar. It’s made with sweet strawberry filling and buttery, flaky pastry dough.

Anarchy in a Jar at Smorgasburg Flea Food Market in Brooklyn, New York City

Pop Tarts from Anarchy in a Jar at Smorgasburg Flea Food Market in Brooklyn, New York City

Here are some other tasty treats that DC and I encountered:

Once we were completely stuffed, we decided to take the East River Ferry from the terminal back into Manhattan. It was just $4 each for a one-way trip that would get us to a stop close enough to DC’s place. If you’re visiting NYC when there’s good weather, I definitely recommend taking the ferry! It’s a fantastic way to get amazing views of all the skyscrapers and architecture while working on your tan.

KB Travel Tip: Before your trip, do some research on what kind of concerts and festivals may be happening while you’re there or plan your trip to happen during an event that caught your eye. Most of the time, travelling just involves doing a tourist activity or seeing tourist sites.

At an event like a festival, you’ll not only be able to do as the locals do, but actually meet some of them too! It’s a great way to make new friends and experience something that doesn’t normally happen in your hometown.

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Heard this song for the first time yesterday. Jason Mraz knows all the right word to make a gal swoon.

Maybe I annoy you with my choices
Well, you annoy me sometimes too with your voice
But that ain’t enough for me
To move out and move on
I’m just gonna love you like the woman I love

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Travel Dates: August 10-17, 2012

While I find travelling to new cities by yourself a ton of fun, there’s nothing quite like having a native show you around to ensure that you don’t end up in a foreign ditch somewhere. That and also being in a city, like New York, where everything is built on a simple grid of streets and avenues. It makes getting around easy for even the most directionally challenged human being (aka me).

DC is actually a transplant from Vancouver, but he’s lived in Manhattan long enough to kick it like any other New Yorker. He kindly agreed to show me around the city on the only Saturday I’d be spending there. The only caveat was that we couldn’t go to any tourist sites because I had planned to visit all those things with my friend, Natasha, who was arriving from Vancouver in a few days.

So, what’s left to see when you cut out the Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, etc? Plenty, as it turns out.

Street art of the Statue of Liberty in NYC

Saturday started out muggy and cloudy, but the sun intermittently showed its shine as we went on a walking tour of the city. Well, first, DC showed me what was in the area around his apartment so I knew where to go for food, drinks, toilet paper, and pretty much anything else I may need to survive while he was at work (or if the zombie apocalypse occurred).

DC lives in Hell’s Kitchen and from there, it was just a ten-minute walk to Times Square, which was surprisingly roomy given that there weren’t that many tourists milling about. I suppose Times Square isn’t really as impressive without all the lights on, but that didn’t mean the billboards weren’t still visible in broad daylight.

Times Square buildings and billboards in New York City

We spent the next hour and a half walking around the NYC, passing by sights like Bryant Park (it’s right behind the New York Public Library), the Empire State Building, the Flat Iron Building, and the flagship Barnes and Nobles store

Empire State Building with the sun shining down on it in New York City

Flatiron building in New York City during the day

Barnes and Noble Flagship store in New York City

One of the awesome things about this city is that everywhere you go, there’s always something to see and do. Like this cool piece of street art:

Bike covered in moss with flower basket made of flowers. This is street art in New York City.

And this farmer’s market by Union Square:

Union Square Farmer's Market in New York City

Sign at Union Square Farmer's Market in New York

Another fantastic thing about NYC? FOOD TRUCKS. They’re everywhere. Like the Gorilla Cheese NYC Truck, which was number one on my list of must-try trucks while I was in New York City. And lucky me, it happened to be parked in front of DC’s bank, which we had coincidentally been making our way towards.

Ever since seeing this truck on an episode of Eat St. on the Food Network, I couldn’t stop dreaming about the grilled cheese sandwich possibilities. There were so many choices! I ended up going for the pulled pork sandwhich. It’s two slices of wheat bread filled to the brim with succulent, spicy-sweet BBQ pulled pork, flavourful smoked gouda, and grilled onions that rounded out the party in my mouth.

Gorilla Cheese Truck in New York City. Karra Barron posing in front of the truck with pulled pork grilled cheese sandwich

I would’ve gotten dessert, too (the Smores dessert melt sounded delish), but DC and I were on our way to the Smorgasburg Food Festival in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Yes, you read that right. Food Festival. In Brooklyn.

Cue the Jay-Z.

KB Travel Tip: I definitely recommend setting aside some time during your first two days in a new city to get your bearings. Whether you’re staying with a friend or at a hotel by yourself, knowing where to go for not only food, drinks, and weapons to combat zombies with, but in case of emergency is super important.

Do you have a first-day-in-a-new-city ritual? Share your story in the comments below – I’d love to hear ‘em!

 

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