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“Hidden” New York

Visiting New York City and living in New York City are two completely different things. I had visited many times before I moved there, but once living there, I realized I’d barely scratched the surface of the best city in the world. Once you move beyond the tourist attractions (which are wonderful in their own right, and shouldn’t be missed), you see an entirely different side of New York that only makes it more charming.  Here are some of my favorite spots that you might miss as a visitor, but you should really make a point to see next time you go.

Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden:

It’s not as popular as the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, but therein lies the charm of this hidden gem on Staten Island. It’s a truly beautiful, sprawling green space with ponds, a variety of trees and flowers, zen gardens, and cultural artifacts amid the mini-museums scattered throughout the grounds. When you’re there, it’s easy to forget you’re on Staten Island or even in New York City. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a concert at the amphitheater. Bonus: you get to enjoy one of the best views in NYC from the Staten Island Ferry.

The Cloisters: The Cloisters 

the cloistersThe Cloisters museum and gardens, located in Fort Tryon Park in northern Manhattan, is a branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to art and architecture of medieval Europe. Situated on a hill overlooking the Hudson River, with a its nearby gorgeous park and spectacular views of the George Washington Bridge, the various buildings within The Cloisters – beautiful medieval looking fortresses and chapels disassembled in Europe and brought to the United States – house over 4,000 works of art. Hop on the train and explore this little piece of European history in NYC.

Asian Food in Flushing, Queens:

Dumplings in FlushingMaybe one of NYC’s best kept secrets from tourists, Flushing boasts the best Chinatown in all of NYC – far superior to its Manhattan counterpart.  You can find any Asian food your heart and stomach desires here. So hop on the 7 train, get off at Flushing/Main Street, and prepare yourself for the deliciousness you’re about to consume. To sample a lot of different foods, hit up the Food Court at the New World Mall, which has a variety of authentic Chinese food, from noodles to hot pots. It gets crowded with locals and you have to stalk tables like you’re a Hawk looking for a mouse, but it’s worth it. Then try the Golden Shopping Mall – specifically the dumplings from corner stall Tianjin Dumpling House. This place alone is worth the trip to Flushing.

The High Line:

The HighlineNot really a “secret” from New Yorkers,  but a lot of tourists don’t bother with this spot because they’re busy checking out Central and Riverside Parks. Abandoned train tracks were turned into a winding city park with beautiful green spaces and a backdrop of street art, sculptures, and of course the enchanting NYC skyline. Hop on anywhere along its many entrances off 10th Avenue and take a stroll, have a seat, eat a snack, and enjoy the scenery. It truly embodies the idea of the concrete jungle.

 

The Frying Pan:

Again, not a secret to most the frying panNew Yorkers, but this old lighthouse/sailboat-turned-restaurant and bar next to the West Side Highway is a unique place to grab food or a beer while getting stunning views of Jersey City, Hoboken, and Manhattan, and most visitors don’t even know it’s there.  Grab your beers and climb up to the top for the best seats in the house.

 

 

Vinegar Hill: 

Brooklyn

This small (as in, only a few square blocks) area in Brooklyn is like stepping back in time. Nestled between landmarks of urbanization – a Con Edison plant, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, cobblestone streets and old-fashioned looking storefronts give you a sense of the magic of the New York of Old. John Jackson, a ship builder, had a shipyard at the foot of Hudson Avenue and built houses nearby for his workers, and these historic districts – between Plymouth and Front Streets – are some of Brooklyn’s oldest residential neighborhoods. People refer to Vinegar Hill as a “jewel” of Brooklyn, and I tend to agree.

 

Eats and Drinks Recipes

Crispy Plantain Chips

Food is my favorite thing. Because it is the best thing. When I travel, I try to sample a lot of the regional cuisine, and if something is particularly delicious, I always attempt to re-create those recipes at home.

Crispy plantains are a staple in various parts of South America, and it’s one of my favorite snacks. They’re incredibly simple to make, and are great on their own or with salsa, guacamole, or other dips. It’s a great alternative to tortilla chips and crackers, especially if you eat gluten free or want a healthier option to chips.

Here is a very simple recipe! You can easily double or triple this recipe if you want to make several batches for a party (or just because you will eat a lot of them in one sitting, like I do).

Crispy Plantain Chips:

Ingredients

  • 2 green plantains (these are unripe, which in my opinion, make better chips)
  • 1.5 teaspoons melted Coconut oil
  • Sea salt

Instructions

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Make three length-wise cuts all the way down the plantain (just deep enough to get through the skin), then peel the skin off.
  • Thinly slice the plantains at a diagonal angle. A mandolin works great for this purpose, but if you don’t have one, just try to make the slices as consistent as possible, so they’ll cook evenly.
  • Toss slices with the coconut oil.
  • Line on parchment paper and sprinkle with sea salt.
  • Bake 20-25 minutes until slightly brown. If your slices weren’t totally consistent, some will brown more quickly, so feel free to remove pieces as needed and continue cooking the ones that need a tad longer.

Simple as that! These will keep for a couple of days in a ziploc bag, but their crispiness will decrease the longer you store them.

Stay tuned for great salsa and guacamole recipes!

Eats and Drinks

Two Favorite Things Combined: Travel and Food Trucks

I love food. I love food that comes from food trucks. I love traveling. These are probably the top 3 things you need to know about me to understand who I am.

Well, the universe finally heard our prayers, and is combining my two favorite things: traveling and eating delicious food. As ABC News reported last month, airports are finally catching on to the food truck craze, as many across the country have invited these bastions of culinary delight on wheels into their cell phone lots and taxi areas.

It’s a great idea for passengers, even though it’s not a money-making strategy for the airports.  Personally, I’ve only been in a few airports in my life that offered passable food, a fact which is particularly problematic if you’re in for a long international trek and your opportunities to grab something to eat are already limited.  I’m notoriously hours early for flights, so it would be great to be able to grab some good food before proceeding through security.

But the best use I can see for these food trucks is during layovers.  If your flight has been delayed by a few hours, instead of having to join the throngs of people waiting for crappy food at T.G.I.Fridays, you could pop outside and get Vietnamese tacos, sliders, grilled cheese, or any of the other delectable dishes food trucks boast.

So far, LAX, Orlando, Tampa International, Austin Bergstrom (of course), and a couple others have invited food trucks onto the property.  Hopefully this is a trend that will catch on and we’ll start to see it happening at major hubs like JFK, Newark, DFW, and Atlanta.