Over spring break, I went to New York with my high school friends. It was a hectic, exhausting, whirlwind of five days, but it was also glorious, fulfilling, and liberating.
I took an 8 AM flight the Saturday after my last final so that when I arrived, I would still have the whole day ahead of me. It took around two hours to get from LaGuardia Airport to my hotel near Times Square because of some road construction, but it was a good chance to see the New York skyline live up to its name as the concrete jungle.
The last time I was in New York was when I was around 8, so seeing the dense lanes of red brick buildings pulsing with such an impenetrable energy was a bit jarring – clearly, it had been a while since I was in such a real, living, breathing city (sorry Chicago, you don’t really count), but I welcomed the adjustment with open eyes and curiosity.
By the time I got to the hotel, my friends were already there. Because we couldn’t check in just yet, we decided to take the subway down to SoHo because I wanted to go to Russ & Daughters for some of their famed nova lox bagels.
The store was a small counter deli, where you had to take a number and wait for it to be called. Once I saw that there were a good 10-15 people ahead of us, I knew we had gone to the right place and that this was going to be good.
The clerks at the shop were dressed in white cloaks reminiscent of a doctor’s lab coat, with glass jars and tin containers stacked on shelves at the back. There were refrigerated deli cases with all kinds of smoked salmon – Norwegian, Scottish smoked salmon, Irish organic and more – as well as different slabs of cream cheese – plain, scallion, vegetable, horseradish, and caviar (the combinations are endless).
I ordered two bagels: the first with Norwegian smoked salmon and ‘everything’ cream cheese, and the second with Irish smoked salmon and caviar cream cheese. When I opened the wrap and saw how much salmon they stuffed into that bagel, I was pleasantly surprised (although I shouldn’t have been, really, considering I paid approximately $12 for one bagel).
The smooth smokiness of the salmon complemented the cheese, which had a thick, whipped-cream texture and tasted a bit sweet and garlicky with flecks of scallion. Even though I couldn’t really taste the difference between the salmons and the caviar wasn’t terribly evident, both were absolutely divine.
After our bagels, we took the subway down to the financial district, where we saw the New York Stock Exchange in all its glory, as well as the Federal Reserve. I had just taken an Intermediate Macroeconomics class and watched The Big Short weeks before, so seeing the financial landmarks right there, as the places where the financial crash happened, IPOs of companies like Twitter launched and interest rates of monetary policy are decided was powerful.
We walked to the Charging Bull as well – a symbol of investor confidence in the economy – and wanted to take a picture with it, but there was a ridiculous amount of *tourists* taking photos with it. There was a huge crowd, with people taking pictures of the bull’s ass and some quite ostentatiously gripping the bull’s balls while they posed for a shot.
From there, we walked to the 9/11 memorial, where the World Trade Center Twin Towers used to stand. There, we saw two vast, rectangular man-made waterfalls that descended across three tiers before falling into what seemed like an endless pit of darkness. Around these two monuments were the names of those who died during the tragedy, and in the background stood the One World Trade Center.
For dinner, my friends and I went to Manila Social Club in Brooklyn, where we had a reservation. The place is known for their ube donuts, as well as their $100 24-karat gold covered donuts, both of which we did not order because they are only made on Fridays (we were one day too late – just kidding, $100 for a donut isn’t worth it, considering I could probably get two good quality steaks for the same price).
Instead, we ordered their Shanghai Lumpia, which is what it sounds like; crab dauphine, which was a dish of lump crab served on corn custard with chive oil (this was amazing, their corn custard was thick and creamy but decently sweet); torta talong, which was roasted eggplant torta on fried rice; blacked striped sea bass; and bisteak Tagalog.
Unfortunately, I didn’t really take many pictures aside from the Lumpia Shanghai – sometimes you just gotta eat – but I did get a shot of the spam fries we ordered, which tasted as greasy and sinfully delicious as it sounds. I usually hate spam (I know, I know, I’m from the Philippines – how in the world can I possible hate spam? Well, I do okay) but this was surprisingly good. Anything in fry form, I would say, gets a pass in my book.
After dinner, one of my friends wanted to go to Ladurée – because when in New York, right? – so we took an Uber to their SoHo restaurant. I couldn’t justify paying $2.50 for a macaron, so I got a ginger sorbet instead. It was light and refreshing, which was what I wanted. There was a half piece of macaron in there (the restaurant was so cheap they couldn’t have put the other half in?).
They had an actual French waitress in the restaurant, who read the menu out in a half-incomprehensible accent (plus points for authenticity, though). My friend ordered the Saint Honoré Classic, a caramelized cream puff pastry with light vanilla cream and grilled flaked almonds. I helped eat it. It was delectable.
We stayed in the restaurant until 11 PM, chatting and catching up and just reminiscing together before we decided to leave. Afterwards, we took the subway back up to Times Square, where we were still feeling kind of hungry, so we stopped by McDonald’s to buy two large fries and chicken nuggets (judge all you want, we’ve all been there for late night runs). No, I didn’t take any pictures of our fries and nuggets, but yes, our trip to NY was essentially food-tripping all over Manhattan.