Big Apple, Big Dreams.

Yesterday morning we woke up ready to take advantage of our last (half) day in New York.  Out the door early to soak up a little more NYC sunshine.

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I know when I am in DC, I never get tired of seeing all the monuments and amazing architecture on every corner.  I imagine New Yorkers feel the same way – there is so much to take in.

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I solicited my Twitter friends for another bagel recommendation – as much as I loved our first spot, I hate eating somewhere twice when there are so many other options.  We ended up at Murray’s Bagels in Chelsea, which was clearly the place to be on a Sunday morning!

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Despite the crowds, I stalked a few tables and ended up scoring us a table for four.  Afterwards Casey remarked, “You could definitely be a New Yorker.  You are so damn feisty.”  I take that as a compliment.  :)

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At my hard-earned table, I enjoyed the “health” bagel – which I think was whole wheat everything, smeared with a generous amount of tofu vegetable cream cheese.  Seriously – vegan options EVERYwhere!  It gives me hope for the rest of the country.

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Murray’s was adorable, and I think I actually liked it better than Ess-A Bagel.  In my bagel book, doughy wins out over crunchy.  I also announced upon leaving that I will never eat another non-NYC bagel.  Nothing else can possibly compare!

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Our only plan for the afternoon was to eat and walk – and we did both of those things quite well.  We started out in the Chelsea neighborhood…

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And eventually made our way into Greenwich Village, and beautiful Washington Park.  The snow on the trees was so pretty!

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I really liked the Greenwich Village area.  I could see myself living there.  :)

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A few more miles of walking through SoHo and the shopping district, we ended up in Little Italy at Lombardi’s Pizza!

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One of my requirements for our visit was authentic New York style pizza.  Half cheese for me, cheese-less for my other half. 

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Super thin New York style crust, mmmm.  The pizza was good, but not the best I’ve ever had.  Will the New Yorkers hate me if I say I think I like Chicago style better?

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I loved the great authentic feel to this spot – plastic checked tablecloths, pictures with celebs on the walls, and piping hot pizza.

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Full from lunch, we headed back out into the snow.  Not a great weekend for riding your bike!

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We continued to walk south and ended up running into Chinatown!  When I was last in NYC in college, I went down to Chinatown and bought a bunch of fake designer purses.  :)  My how times have changed!

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No purses this time, it was all about the atmosphere and the FOOD.  I am a big advocate of bulk shopping, but this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind…

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Chinatown is so interesting – it truly feels like you’ve walked into another country.  And as fascinating as I found it, I also wanted to make sure to be respectful and selective with my camera, not forgetting that this is how people really live.

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This long line stretched down the block – all people waiting in line to buy MILK!

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All sorts of interesting and unrecognizable food.  I have a pretty good eye for obscure ingredients, but most of these were new even to me.

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But there was one exotic food that I recognized from half-way down the block – DURIAN!

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Durian is a notoriously STINKY exotic fruit that is not seen very often in the US.  We talked about them a lot in culinary school, and they always seem to end up in the baskets on Chopped, but I had never seen (or smelled) one up close in person before.

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Before I knew what was happening, Jordan was buying one and announcing that we were all going to EAT durian before we left.  There were actually a lot of people buying it, which made me feel a little bit better about his decision.  The inside was not at all what I expected – almost pudding-like.

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The durian tasting commenced – Casey went back for several more forkfuls, while Laura looked like she was going to gag.

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This was the extent of my tasting.  I’m a pretty adventurous eater, but this was NOT my cup of tea.  It tasted like a fibrous oniony pudding – horrific.

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Happy I tasted it.  Even happier to never have to taste it again.  :)

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We marched on through Chinatown…

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And found ourselves at our last stop for the weekend – the doorway of BABYCAKES!

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My friend Mary Ann gave me the Babycakes cookbook for Christmas, and I have been dying to visit ever since.

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It was SO tiny inside – I had to really squeeze and zoom out just to get a few photos.  The décor was really retro and playful – I loved it.

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Even the staff were dressed in crazy old-school outfits – it made the whole experience much more fun.  My takeaway from Babycakes AND Tu-Lu’s was that you don’t have to do something BIG in order to get noticed.  Both of these bakeries have well-known cookbooks, features on Food Network, and die-hard followings, and yet they are both so small that they can barely hold a handful of people at one time.  It just goes to show that anything is possible if the food is good.

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I left feeling inspired.  I also left with a giant box of baked goods.

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Cinnamon spice and chocolate crunch donuts, along with vanilla, banana, and carrot cake cupcakes.  All vegan, and all gluten-free.

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This box served as a delicious dinner on our long bus ride home to DC.  Yep – the whole box.  Don’t judge.

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Now we are home safe and sound in Virginia, and I am missing the snowy streets of NYC just a bit.  Hoping to get back sooner than later, and adding “live in New York City” to my life list.  Because just as I realized at Babycakes, it never hurts to dream big.