Shop: Brooklyn Flea + Eat: Smorgasburg (Ramen Burger, Mighty Quinn’s BBQ & Dough), New York, USA

So, while we’re visiting New York, we have to actually get out of Manhattan to do two of my favourite things – market trawling and eating! And believe me when I tell you there is absolutely no better place to do both of these things than at Smorgasburg + Brooklyn Flea Market!

 

Brooklyn Indoor Winter Flea Market + Smorgasburg
1000 Dean St (between Classon & Franklin), Brooklyn
http://brooklynflea.com/
http://www.smorgasburg.com/

Ok, so let’s go with the shopping component first – the flea market part. You can read more on the website above, but basically what they’re all about:

Founded in April 2008, Brooklyn Flea has grown into one of New York City’s top attractions, operating flea markets every weekend of the year that feature hundreds of top vendors of furniture, vintage clothing, collectibles and antiques, as well as a tightly curated selection of jewelry, art, and crafts by local artisans and designers, plus delicious fresh food.

If that doesn’t get you excited to visit, then we’re just not on the same page! Basically, it’s a giant market with both shopping and eating to be done, which is the best of all worlds in my books. In the warmer months, the market is held outdoors, but we visited in the depths of winter which meant that instead of calling it off, they thankfully just move indoors until the snow lets up! As you can see below, it’s in a gorgeously big warehouse-style space, with both antiques/vintage and new handcrafted wares. It’s pure heaven for someone like me, with fantastic bargains to be found if you’re happy to meander around the place for a while and dig around. And don’t think the winter cold stop the crowds migrating across the river for this; by 11:30am, the place was packed, so get in early!

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After a bit of shopping, we were getting hungry, and made our way to the other part of the party; Smorgasburg. Think indoor food hall with a few different stalls to choose from, obligatory long lines of hipsters clambering for delicious food (and yes, we shamelessly joined in!). And you know what? Totally justified – the food here is great, the atmosphere is fantastic, it’s seriously just so much fun! As for what we ate, it was hard to narrow it down, but we went with….

 

The Original Ramen Burger
http://ramenburger.com/

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I don’t care what anyone says – believe the hype. This was amazing. Golden fried noodle buns, juicy beef patty, just enough spring onion and sauce to give it a little kick, it was everything that was promised and more. I want another.

 

Mighty Quinn’s BBQ
http://www.mightyquinnsbbq.com/

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This is serious BBQ. Holy wow. They take good quality meat and treat it simply and respectfully, bringing together traditions and methods from Texas and the Carolinas to create some absolutely mind blowingly good product by barbecuing it the old school way – low and slow. We ordered a serve of brisket (above, centre), burnt ends (top left) and pulled pork (top right). The pork just fell apart as we ate it, and the brisket – I mean, you can see the perfectly rendered fat in that picture, it literally melted in your mouth! And those burnt ends were something else… Oh my GOD I would eat tray after tray of those and never get sick of them!!

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Dough
http://www.doughbrooklyn.com/

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Naturally, you gotta finish on dessert. And everyone raves about Dough. There were SO many incredible looking donuts to choose from but it was the dulce de leche covered in toasted almonds that caught my eye. The dough was somehow both dense AND light at the same time, the glaze was delicious, and plenty of toasted almonds – a truly perfect donut specimen in every way. One of my biggest regrets in New York was not going back for a second one.

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Shop here: Strand Bookstore, New York, USA

Strand Bookstore
828 Broadway, New York
http://strandbooks.com

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Hope you’ve been enjoying your virtual trip to New York so far this week 🙂 If you’re a bibliophile like me, chances are you may have heard of Strand Bookstore; it’s renowned for being home of almost 20 miles of new, used and rare books. No mean feat when real estate is such a precious commodity in NYC!

A family business (like so many are) started back in 1927, Strand now has over 2.5 million books to choose from with staff who are not only knowledgeable about what they’re selling, but also big readers and book lovers themselves. Instead of the standard hovering and annoying staff you often find in big stores, these guys are actually really helpful in finding what you’re looking for (and in a store this big, the help is much appreciated).

Strand has become a bit of a city institution, and now not only sell books, but also host a range of events such as book signings and readings, book swaps and Q&A panels. Go with an empty carry bag and a stacked wallet, because with that many books, it’s impossible to leave without a few!

Stay here: Da Vinci Hotel, New York

Da Vinci Hotel
244 W 56th St, New York
http://www.davincihotel.com/

 

Next, you’re going to need somewhere to stay as a base while you’re exploring this wonder city. And accommodation is a seriously tough topic for visitors to New York. I learnt a few things in my few years working as a travel consultant. You need a transit visa if you want to leave the airport on your 16 hour Air China layover in Beijing. You cannot go to Phuket over Christmas holidays for $1000 per person when you’re booking in November. If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford your holiday either. No, the $1100 per person sale fares to Los Angeles are not available with Qantas in school holidays. And a week’s worth of accommodation in New York costs a fucking fortune. This was a stress point when we were booking our trip, because at that point I was no longer working as a travel agent and no longer had access to the slightly better prices afforded to us.

I spend hours on Google, checking out endless photos and reviews before I came across the Da Vinci Hotel. Reviews weren’t horrible, nor were they amazing. It seemed a solid 3 star hotel, clean and comfortable, although the rooms were small. Fine by us; I don’t give myself credit for much, but when I travel, I’m not a princess. I don’t need enormous rooms with fluffy bathrobes and room service and all that crap. I just need a bed and a clean bathroom. And this seemed to fit the bill. And the part that seemed too good to be true? 8 nights cost us only AUD$1250.00! For real!

So, it was with a little trepidation that we gave the address to our cab driver when we arrived into New York; we pulled up at a slightly old but cute building attached to an Italian restaurant, complete with the requisite tacky Italian chef statue out the front clutching the day’s special board. Only 3 blocks from Central Park, a few minutes walk to Columbus Circle and a few metres from Broadway, first impressions on location were fantastic. We ended up walking almost everywhere during our week long stay, so 10/10 for location of Da Vinci!

As for the hotel itself, honestly, I fell in love with it within 10 minutes of being there. The staff at the front desk couldn’t have been more lovely and accommodating, checking us in quickly and running us through some of the hotel amenities:
– 24 hour front desk
– restaurant downstairs, under the ground level of the hotel, which also provided room service!
– all rooms with private bathrooms and toiletries
– bar fridges in rooms
– free WiFi
– safety deposit boxes

Our room itself was more that sufficient, particularly for the price we paid!

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It was clean and small but very comfortable. We had a fantastic heating unit that kept us warm through the snowy nights, and decent sized table in the corner of the room where I took this photo from which we were able to fit both suitcases underneath, and spread our crap out on top of. The bathroom was also really clean and had enough space to move around in pretty comfortably.

The other thing we really loved was the simple complimentary breakfast spread put on each morning; we were welcome to make ourselves a cup of tea or coffee, as well as grab a muffin or pastry on our way out each morning. Better again, because I love tea and it was almost impossible to get a take away cup of tea at the end of the night (seriously, even the McDonald’s on the corner near the hotel didn’t do tea! Incredible!), the lovely ladies at the front desk were more than happy to fill the kettle and boil some water for us when we got back in at the end of the night for a cuppa. Its those little, personal touches that make ALL the difference, particularly when you’re there for a week!

But everyone knows that the most important thing in New York is to choose accommodation in a good location. Approximate walking distances from the hotel to big ticket locations are:
– 12 minutes to Rockefeller Plaza
– 28 minutes to Empire State Building
– 23 minutes to Grand Central Terminal
– 15 minutes to Central Park Zoo
– 32 minutes to Central Park’s Great Lawn
– 10 minutes to MoMa
– 33 minutes to Madison Square Park

Also, it should be known that the pizzas they’re making in the restaurant under the hotel are not only an ungodly large size (as you can see below – that’s a large) and a great price ($16.00), but surprisingly absolutely delicious!

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If you’re visiting New York, do yourself a favour and consider spending a little less on fancy accommodation so you can spend more money experiencing the city! I mean, how much time do you really wanna be spending in your hotel room in a city like New York anyway?! Da Vinci was the perfect base for a week in NYC, I’d recommend it to anyone and will absolutely stay here again on my next visit!

Eat here: New York classics – Katz’s Deli and Russ & Daughters, USA

It wouldn’t be a trip to New York without good food, and if you’re going to eat something, look to the classics.

It can be hard to give food recommendations because the food scene is so fickle and ever changing – what was hot and new last week is going to be old news, possibly even shut down in a month or two. So when you’ve got institutions that have been around for decades and are still pulling in massive crowds, you know they’re worth visiting.

 

Katz’s Deli
205 E Houston St, New York
http://katzsdelicatessen.com/

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You remember that who “I’ll have what she’s having” scene in When Harry Met Sally? That was here. That helped put this place on the map. But you’re not visiting to get your photo taken at the table it went down at, because there’s a much, much better reason to come here. And that’s to eat. A pastrami and mustard on rye sandwich piled to a ridiculous height, that may well be the most tasty sandwich anywhere. Also, get a knish – basically a mashed potato nugget with a thick, crispy, golden crust, which is so heavy and filling you won’t be able to move for 20 minutes after eating it. Not that that’s a problem.

Fair warning – the sandwiches are not cheap, but they are absolute behemoths, so that well and truly balances out. Also, it’s a cash only thing, so come prepared. And they get hella busy – we went right on opening time and the place filled up pretty quickly! But it’s a classic for a reason – opened in 1888 and still going strong, you haven’t experienced New York without a visit to Katz’s.
Katz's Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

 

 

Russ & Daughters
179 E Houston St, New York
http://www.russanddaughters.com/

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One of the most commonly associated foods with New York is the bagel – everyone I know who’s been to NYC has made the effort to try one smothered in cream cheese and topped with salmon. Classic. I wanted to make sure that the bagel I tried was as goof as it could get, and general consensus was Russ & Daughters. They just celebrated their centenary, having kicked off in 1914, and haven’t stopped serving the city since. They’re one of the last “appetizing” shops anywhere – appetizing being best translated in this context as the foods that one eats with their bagel, such as the cured and smoked salmon varieties, and  many different types of cream cheeses on offer here.

We visited around midday and the line was out the door, as it apparently is every day. I ordered myself an everything bagel with scallion cream cheese and Scottish smoked salmon. It was perfect. Nothing else I write about it will do it justice; I know there are limitless choices in bagels in New York, but Russ & Daughters is where you NEED to be getting yours from!

Russ & Daughters on Urbanspoon

New York week! Read this: Inside The Apple by Michelle & James Nevius

Inside The Apple
by Michelle & James Nevius

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So, I was reading the last few chapters of this book on the train last week, reminiscing about the great time I had in New York back in January, and I had a thought… I’ll come back to the book in a moment, but first let me introduce you to what I’m dubbing “New York week” on the blog this week! It’s an enormous city, with an absolutely fascinating history, and I learnt that on this Sunday, July 26th, it’ll be 227 years to the day since New York City officially became the 11th US State. So in celebration, I’m turning my blog New York themed for the week, to share some of my favourite things and places and foods and what not from my visit to one of the world’s greatest cities 🙂 And the best way to start this week off, I think, is with this brilliant book.

Reading Inside The Apple (which I bought at the absolutely amazing NYC book shop Idlewild Books) kept bringing me back to a quote I remember vividly from reading Stephen Brook’s New York Days, New York Nights:

“New York is no place for antiquarians. There are no ruins, and never will be, in New York City. They would be too costly. New York is exactingly different because it insists you live precisely in the present, with all your capacities stretched to the limit. It is a good city to leave, for in your absence it will continue to live and breathe and grow, and, in its altered state, like a body in which most of the cells have been replaced, it will be ready for you when, as you surely will, you return.”

The book is both a history lesson and street guide of the city; Michelle and James take you through the history of the city, in chronological order, but with a twist – they relate the historical events that shaped the city back to landmarks of the city. Some are still there, but most are gone – as Stephen Brook said, there are no ruins and never will be!

I learnt SO much from reading this book about the city, and it was so cool to be reading the little chapters and recognising street names that I walked down and places that I saw! There was a lot I didn’t realise, like how the Empire State Building was originally meant to have zeppelins (like blimps) anchored to the top of it, like a sky scrapper blimp airport, and that the stoops that allow entrance up and into most residences were actually to hide the servants’ entrances underneath. The book also ends with some great walking tours you can take yourself on through the city, to see some of the things you’ve just read about.

If you live in NYC and want to know a little more about your city (I really wish there was something like this written about Melbourne!!), if you’ve visited like me and want to know a little more about the cool stuff you saw, if you’ve never been before but are still kinda interested in the history of this great city, pick up a copy here and enjoy!

Eat here: Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, Coney Island, New York – Happy 4th of July!

Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs
1310 Surf Ave, Brooklyn, New York
http://www.nathansfamous.com/

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So, it’s not a thing here in Australia (duh), but for all the Americans out there, Happy 4th of July! And yes, I know I’m a day early for the Americans, but it’s the 4th here, so I’m gonna roll with it! While we were in New York in January, we took a trip out to Coney Island (gorgeous!), and when we got to Nathan’s, husband was pretty excited to point out that we were at the home of the famous 4th of July Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest! We were hoping to try one, but being the middle of winter, we weren’t holding our breath – turns out we were in luck, and hot dogs were still happening! Happy days! And a delicious hot dog it was, too. I reckon on a good day I could probably polish off 10, don’t think I’d ever be able to get near the recorn 69 hot dogs polished off by current champion Joey Chestnut. In 10 minutes. Wow. If you haven’t seen this guy in action, follow this link and prepare to be amazed/impressed/horrified/all of the above. If you’re in NYC for the 4th of July and get down to the contest, tell me all about it!! Otherwise, I hope everyone gets to enjoy a delicious hot dog of some description anyway!

 

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Eat here: Dominique Ansel Bakery, New York

Dominique Ansel Bakery
189 Spring St, New York
http://www.dominiqueansel.com/

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Thought I’d stick with the tea and cake theme for another day, but move it to the other side of the world, because I just found out these guys have a store in Tokyo not far from the hotel I’ll be staying in come October, so I’m pretty excited! It’s one of those places every sweet tooth feels like they need to try when they visit New York – it’s the home of the cronut, and more recently, the milk and cookie shot. I figured rolling up just after opening on a Sunday morning would give me a good chance of getting my hands on one of each of these bad boys; I was wrong. When I asked at the counter if I could please have 2 of each (this wasn’t something I intended on sharing), the lady looked at me as if I’d asked her for a puppy in a raincoat, and replied very slowly to me as if speaking to a little alien, “We do not do cookie shots until 3pm. And of course the donuts are sold out.” Well then. Guess I should have known they’d be sold out 30 minutes after opening. Thankfully there was an impressive array of other treats in the window, so I picked out the Paris-New York, a gorgeous peanut/caramel/chocolate concoction.

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It was amazing, to be honest. Not cheap (USD$6.50 for a cake not much bigger than the size of my fist), but amazing. These guys have a great rep for a reason, and they were busy for a cold Sunday morning, bright and early. The food impressed me, and I’d absolutely return for another cup of tea and more cake, but the attitude I got didn’t; maybe I should have known better than to expect to be able to purchase a cronut, maybe you should make more of them if you know that’s what people are coming in for! But hey, I wasn’t there to make friends, I was there for cake, and that was worth going for!

 

Dominique Ansel Bakery on Urbanspoon