I need to come up with better titles.
Yester I left NJ for NYC at around 10:30 AM and got back home at nearly 6:00 PM. At some point in between, I obtained my Long Stay Student Visa so I could legally partake in France-based frolicking at The American University in Paris from September to December.
While I suppose the visa-obtaining process was less painful than going to the DMV (boy, that's not saying much), I didn't think that a 12:15 appointment meant that I'd wait in line for an hour. Everyone was made to wait outside the consulate until their appointment time came up. After a guard checked your name off the list, you'd wait in what looked like a very short line for about an hour as there was only one window where a woman would take your visa form, charge you (supposedly, they'll only take exact change if you're using cash), and possibly tell you to come back the next working day with a different ID photo, a problem that happened to two people in front of me. That definitely made me paranoid.
Thankfully, my face wasn't too fat. (The photo problem for the two people was that their heads were too large and wouldn't fit in the visa template majiggy despite that the actual picture was the right dimensions. Apparently their computers can't scale down photos. Someone needs to upgrade these programs!) When at 1:15 I was finally deemed okay to enter France, I was told to come back between 3 PM and 4 PM to pick up my passport. Ahh...now, to figure out how to kill some time in one of the world's greatest cities.
While roaming up Madison Avenue, I passed by La Maison du Chocolat between 78th and 79th. La Maison is one of my favorite places (also my mum's fave), although I've sometimes felt uncomfortable at the Rockefeller Center location. (Not that the employees were rude, just that...well, you get vibes. Some people who worked there seemed really nice, while some others gave me the feel that they wanted me out of there ASAP. On a random note, I've never gotten weird vibes from Richart.) While their stuff is definitely on the expensive side, there's no reason that you can't afford at least one treat. A large macaron (not in the photo) is $5 (small ones are $2). It may be a lot for a cookie (actually, more like two cookies!), but it's tasty stuff and not the easiest thing in the world to make. It's worth trying if you haven't had one before. (If you live in NJ, I'd recommend Wegmans for great macarons that also happen to be inexpensive.) I didn't buy any macarons cos, ye know...I'll just wait until I get to France.
Walking up and down the avenue killed about...oh, 5 seconds of my life. Dammit. It was a combination of walking too quickly and for too short of a distance. Not knowing there else to go (hey, my knowledge of Upper Manhattan is very slim), I wandered into the Whitney Museum. As someone who rarely goes to museums (although that was my third visit to the Whitney), my conclusion about the current exhibition is: it's okay. Haha. I mean, it's probably awesome and I don't appreciate art enough, such as four fluorescent lighting tubes placed next to each other on a wall, or a brownish hued transluscent cube sculpture. Or something.
For a late lunch I went to Sarabeth's Cafe in the museum basement. (Sarabeth's sit-down restaurant takes up most of the space, but...um, I'm cheap and didn't want to kill too much time eating). The egg salad sandwich had the surprising kick of lemon zest, making it notably delicious. The pumpkin muffin tasted good, although not special. It also left an aftertaste in my mouth whose cause I couldn't figure out. (It happens sometimes when I eat baked goods.)
...If I sound lethargic, it's because I'm tired. Sadly, I can't endure going to and from NYC for five days in a row. My desire to go to tomorrow's Pool Party has been outweighed by the desire to sleep and just do nothing, except laundry.
Moving on. I went back to the consulate shortly before 3, waited in line again, and then waited some more inside next to the same people I had waited with in line earlier that afternoon. While peering at the two men behind the windows quietly tinkering around with our passports, I felt like I'd never get mine back. Until...
WOOHOO, IT'S MIIIINE! POUR MOIIIIIIII.
When I got home, I feasted on my brother's leftover chow mei fun and a bunch of fruit. Yummers.
On Wednesday night I had the urge to go...somewhere. Out. My mum and brother had no plans so I was left with the task of finding a place close by where everyone would want to eat. Some googling led me to Mangia Trattoria (warning: the flash-based website automatically plays annoying music) in nearby Glen Rock. Despite having lived in the area for about 15 years, we've rarely been to Glen Rock and have never driven by the strip mall where the restaurant is situated. Oops. Oh well, not like it doesn't resemble the rest of NJ.
I hadn't been to a noisy family-style Italian restaurant like MT in at least 4 years. There's no particular reason besides that I'd usually rather eat something else. (You probably don't want to know how many plates of veal parmigiana I ate as a kid. Even I don't want to know.) MT caught my interest because of their large pizza menu.
But first, we need fried calamari. While growing up it was almost an unspoken rule to get fried calamari as an appetizer. My mum—the health conscious anti-fried-food member of the family—inexplicably loves fried calamari (I say "inexplicably" because she sometimes acts like a health nazi; obviously fried stuff is the yums) and at her insistence was why she, my brother and I shared this huge dish for $8 that could easily feed four or more people. The fried calamari was one of the better versions I've had; not too chewy and just enough crispy crust. I liked the tentacled pieces in particular. Mmm, tentacles.
My brother ordered a mini sized "pepperoni, sausage, meatballs, ham, salami" pizza. We were very curious to see what a "mini" $10 pizza entailed after the gargantuan portion of fried calamari (the other sizes are "regular" and "large". If you ask me, small, medium and large, or measurements in inches, would make more sense). To me, this mini is rather un-mini, perhaps resemble a medium-sized pizza in Asia. However, the crust is surprisingly thin, so it doesn't take up a crapload of stomach space. Without the appetizer and free bread, my brother probably could've eaten more than half of this.
While I mulled over the regular pizza menu for most of the time, at the last minute I went for half a sicilian pie ($8) to change my vague notion of what a sicilian pie was. It's the closest thing I've had to deep-dish pizza (my favorite as a kid) in years. I managed to eat two of the six slices of thick, soft, tomato sauce, gooey mozzerella and basil-topped bread before reaching the stomach explosion point. It was good (not overly cheesy in case it looks like that from the photo), but I guess my tastes have changed to a thin-crust preference. There's no denying that I love bread to death, yet if given the choice of chowing down on a huge chunk of bread, I'd rather it come in plain or sandwich form than in pizza form.
My mum ordered the seafood and homemade parpadelle special. I had a taste and...well, if I could describe the taste to you I would. Instead, I will fail by saying that it was the opposite of mushy. [buries head in hands] I mean, it had a good bite to it. Not necessarily chewy, just...ye know. Um. No you don't. NEVERMIND!
So overall, I'd recommend Mangia Trattoria if you live in the area. Which you probably don't. I'd like to go back sometime to try another pizza. For more info about how they make their pizza (or I can sum it up right here: a combination of gas oven and wood-burning oven), check out Tommy's review.
My most oft-visited lunch destination during work is Life Thyme. I need to give it more props, but I don't have much to say about it. I like it because it's very convenient for me (besides being close to my office, they have a seating area on the second floor), has a salad bar that I actually like, and offer some of my favorite baked goods. A problem with the baked goods is that, unless you're feeling particularly gluttonous, they're too damn big for one person to eat in one sitting. Luckily, Tony shared a slice of organic vegan banana chocolate chip cake with me. I don't know why more places can't turn the ingredients (wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, rofu, soymilk, safflower oil, sea salt, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, vanilla extract, banana extract, chocolate chips, cashew butter) into a flavorful, moist, dense slice of "not overly guilt-inducing" cake like Life Thyme.
I also shared this ginormous chocolate chocolate chip cookie with John the day before. We were totally stuffed after eagerly chowing down the dense chocolate chunks and subjecting the cookie to a grisly stomach-acid induced death. Life Thyme's cookies are more like raw cookie dough than something that would lose moisture though the baking process. They don't have the sinfully good taste of Levain Bakery's similarly dough-like cookies (I wouldn't go out of my way for Life Thyme unless I had a dietary restriction; Levain is worth a visit no matter where you are) but definitely count as some of my favorite cookies in Manhattan.
I'm too lazy to write a proper review about Tuesday's lunch at Harbour Lights and even if I wanted to, it wouldn't be accurate of the regular restaurant since I ate from a menu planned for an office lunch. If you want to read more about the dishes, click on the photos to read the description on flickr.
Glorious sleep, where the hell are you?