May was a turning point. On May 1, I made my way to Chelsea to get my second dose of the vaccine (I mean, after over a year of the pandemic, this was pretty much a destination to me). From then on out, things were a little sunnier. The energy of summer started to set in. Tourists started flocking into the city. Manhattan was annoyingly crowded for the first time in a very long time. In Brooklyn, the fire hydrants were flowing and the music blasting. There was something in the air that compelled us to go outside, to bask in the warmth of the city.
May has been the most “normal” things have felt in a very, very long time. Masks came off. Groups gathered, indoors and outdoors. Flights were full. Things felt more open. I felt giddy just spending days outside doing mundane things. Working at a coffee shop. Running errands. Walking across the Williamsburg Bridge. Drunk on the very experience of not being at my desk on a weekday afternoon.
May was a taste of what could be. Weekends filled with activities. Even a couple weeknights. Friends visiting. A weekend away. Running around the city to the point of content exhaustion. Actually getting dressed and putting on make up. Getting wiped out by the heat in New York one weekend and getting kicked in the ass by the cold in Chicago the next. Things to do, places to go, people to see.
Sometimes you just have to take yourself out. Socialize yourself a bit. Exist in the outside world. Find an excuse to go somewhere. And this month I had vaccines and consulate appointments to thank to get me out of the house.
My first dose took me to Times Square. My second was supposed to be in Carnasie but as new appointment slots I switched it to a location in Chelsea. And of course, made a trip out of it. A mid morning coffee date with a friend at Interlude in Tribeca (a really nice sibling run Asian-owned coffee and tea shop), and then walked all the way up to Hudson Yards while awaiting my appointment. After all, when you don’t get out often, you better use those days out to get all the steps in.
In the process of trying to visit Taiwan, I became very familiar with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office. I spent an entire day running around the city gathering all the paperwork, photos, copies before hauling everything over to midtown. And since I was already in midtown, had to make it worth it with a stop by Ktown.
There’s something so lovely about hanging out with yourself in a bustling city like New York. There’s something so indulgent about visiting the Met in the morning, before the crowds settle in, entire rooms to yourself, the morning light dancing along the statues casting uninterrupted shadows in the room.
I made a spontaneous decision to go to the Met, reserving timed tickets late Friday night and waking up early Saturday to make my way all the way up to 86th (this is saying a lot, for someone who rarely goes north of 14th). Grabbed coffee and a croissant from a local café and people watched in the park (which was packed already with joggers, dog walkers, little leaguers and morning bikers) before heading to the museum.
Moving through the museum alone, at my own pace, I felt extra conscious of sharing space with the historic cultural pieces, works of art that transcend time, that have come from all around the world to be admired here, in an art palace in the middle of Manhattan.
I love Chicago. I’ll take any excuse to go frolicking around that city for a few days. I’ve spent time in the city every year for the past 7 years. And so when our Chicago Baker’s Box happened to land on a day I had off, I figured why not duck out of NYC for a couple days and wander my old haunts?
It was nice seeing Chicago a little more open. A sense of normalcy. A memory of routine as I retraced the steps I know all too well.
But this time in Chicago felt different from before. Because for the first time, I was experiencing it in the context of having New York City be my baseline. And so everything about Chicago was amplified. It was cleaner than I remembered. The buses more lovely. The people more friendly (I almost miss midwesterners??). The lack of trash so refreshing. The wafts of chocolate so warm and inviting. The streets so wide. I felt free to move around without dodging trash and rats and shit.
Most of all I felt comfortable. Anchored, in a way. I could rely on muscle memory, turn off the active part of my brain in navigating the city. I had forgotten what it’s like to not feel vaguely lost at all times.
And sure, the weather forecast made me thankful I hadn’t yet put away my winter clothes, but I’d forgotten the power of a sunny day in Chicago. When you forget all of the trust issues you’ve gotten from the temperamental weather swings of the city, and instantly feel like you’re living your best life. I love this city.
Although I stayed in River North, this trip was mostly spent on the north west side, in some of my favorite neighborhoods, trying out some new spots and checking off some places I’ve been meaning to visit for a while now. But of course no trip to Chicago would be complete without a morning walk along the river, across the bridges, taking in the grand architecture in a peaceful state. I can never get sick of this.
This month’s cooking theme was “using everything you’ve stashed in your freezer” which apparently included ground beef, pork belly, and a lot of bread flour and whole grain pastry flour. Oops.
01 – an attempt at baked menchi, with hayashi curry with sesame cabbage slaw
02 – took the hayashi and reincarnated it to an “over rice” form with a soft boiled egg; which to be honest turned out better than expected
03 – found some soft tofu in the back of the fridge, so made a quick dressing (fu ru, sesame oil, tahini, rice vinegar) and served it over warm tofu; presentation needs some work but I could eat this every day
04 – had a lotta veg. made bibimbap. made it cute in the pot. and actually had crispy rice on the bottom 🥲
05 – forgot how much mixed noodles were a staple in my life until I realized I had leftover chili oil from Fan Fried Rice Bar and wanted to put it to good use. Made it summery with cukes and scallions and black vinegar. Could also eat this every day.
06 – inspired by all the take out bentos on Taiwanese food Instagram as they learn to stay at home. Looks wholesome enough. I think my mom would approve.
07 – nutty whole grain “shortbread” cookies inspired by espresso tonics, with coffee, cacao nibs and orange zest
08 – purple kale pesto spring vegetable flatbreads with mozzarella and basil (turned out better than I anticipated, pizza stones make a big difference!)
essentially brain candy because we can’t process anything else these days
A little late to Falcon and the Winter Soldier (had to wait for all the eps to come out so I could binge). But anyways, we love Sebastien Stan.
Mare of Easttown because social media told me to. And this format of show is a sweet spot for me.
Cruel Summer because I live for this kind of teen drama television where I can hate on all the characters.
This one was a little weird and confusing but the last episode made it all worth it.
Shadow and Bone because fantasy YA novels are basically like the junk food version of a blockbuster movie.
And of course, an embarrassing amount of Tiktok scrolling because I can’t commit to a show.
post-vax breakfast treat because apparently my body is blessed with virtually no side effects
nothing to see here, just your standard pre-brunch soft serve (a must when a humid NYC hits the 90s)
probably one of the best bites of the month: cauliflower curry at wayan
hanging around canal street quite a bit these days, but I don’t mind
who knew i’d actually appreciate being in a busy bar for the first time in a very long time?
ppl is finally fully open! my go-to afternoon coffee pick me up that just so happens to be API-owned
weeknight post-work ice cream runs during golden hour are a vibe
taking a work meeting IRL for the first time since march 2020 (but bonus points for not having to leave the neighborhood)
fact: brunch tastes better on a weekday; sundays in brooklyn on a thursday
Two talented friends popped up at Canal Street Market this month, so I had to go support. I got some cute food-themed cards from Jenny and amazing pastries from Stephanie. And in the process picked up some minimalist prints too because I have zero self control.
I actually kept up with a regular, daily cadence on social media with a celebration of highlighting some of my favorite AAPI restaurants and bakeries and cafes on social media via @prettycarbs and with Infatuation LA. Already looking forward to the next time I’m in LA to revisit these favorites and meet the owners in-person.
made a spontaneous trip out to Chicago to help out with the Baker’s Box, meet old friends and new friends, and fall in love with the city all over again (thank you, NYC).
also saying hi to my childhood favorite airport terminal :’)