Tag Archives: NYC

Niagara Falls by Andrea Baptista

Weekend Trips from NYC: Toronto and Niagara Falls

How about a trip to Canada?

Ryan and I just took a quick trip up to Niagara Falls and Toronto.  He had never been to Canada so I tried to throw together a few things I loved about my road trips as a kid.

We took a straight shot drive up to Niagara Falls for about 6.5 hours from New York City on a Friday night.  We just missed the falls lit up, so definitely check the schedule and plan accordingly.

The Sheraton on the Falls Hotel is a great deal–we paid ~$90 for the most basic room and were upgraded to a high floor with a great view of the falls with Starwood Gold status.

In the morning this is what we woke to:

Niagara Falls

After a quick drive and walk along the falls to see them from different vantage points on the Canadian side (arguably the better view), we drove up to Toronto.

Our first stop is a New York Times favorite–Lai Wah Heen.  First picked up by FloFab in 1997 and reappearing many-a-times, the restaurant claims many dim sum hearts as people’s favorite Cantonese stop in Toronto.  Everything was spot on and came out piping hot (often an issue with dim sum in North America and the popular cart style service).  Make sure to order these cute pig shaped glutinous rice meat fritters with garlic ears:

Glutinous Rice Fritters from Lai Wah Heen by Andrea Baptista
After dim sum and driving around Downtown to see the CN Tower, we struggled with what to do.  As a kid all I did in Toronto was visit family, see Blue Jays vs. Yankees games, go Chinese goods shopping and eat Chinese food.  Not to discount how awesome the Chinese shopping and food is, but I could understand the lack of appeal for someone in Toronto for the first time, and January isn’t exactly baseball season.   Luckily, Ryan had a great idea: hockey.

With the Toronto Maple Leafs out of town, we were left with a minor league Toronto Marlies game. It was actually a lot of fun and I definitely recommend it!

Same day online tickets are limited–by the time we decided to go, they were no longer for sale. Luckily Ryan wasn’t dissuaded and we walked up the ticket counter at Ricoh Coliseum with a bunch of well-garbed fans (and an unpleasant scalper who tried to sell us tickets for 20 CAD).  Turns out there aren’t many levels at the stadium–just the 100s and the ~5 row lower level by the ice so all the seats are great. Our tickets in Row G of section 101 face value was 37.50 CAD, but a lovely woman approached on the ticket line to give them to us for free (so nice!).  The stadium capacity was 7.8k and our crowd was at 7.5k so even for a rivals game, I’m sure there were plenty of last minute seats left.

The local crowd was great and really into the game–this furry guy, Duke, teasing a fan from the opposing team helped too:
Duke at a Toronto Marlies Game

That night we ate some awesome Cantonese style casual food and checked into the Sheraton Parkway Hotel.  A no frills decent Sheraton with a really low rate at ~$90, the hotel is right in the center of really great Cantonese food!  We woke up and went to eat amazing rice noodles and congee at Sam’s then started our trek back.
Sam's Congee Delight by Andrea Baptista

On the way back to New York we stopped at Anchor Bar in Buffalo, home of the original Buffalo wings.

All in all, a great quick trip!  If we had flip flopped and did Toronto first then Niagara we would have made it back in time for the last tour at 1:30 of the Frank Lloyd Wright Darwin D. Martin House and seen the falls at night, but there’s always next time!

 

Sheraton on the Falls
SPG Category 4
Niagara Falls, Ontario

Sheraton Parkway Toronto North Hotel & Suites
SPG Category 3
Richmond Hill, Ontario

Lai Wah Heen (takes reservations and pre-orders)
Metropolitan Hotel Toronto
108 Chestnut St
Toronto, ON M5G 1R3
+1 416-977-9899

Sam’s Congee Delight (no reservations)
4390 Steeles Ave E
Markham, ON L3R 9V7

See my explanation for staying in Starwood from my last post.

Grenada

Turning 25 for Young Professionals in NYC

Un-complicate.  De-Stress. Stop. Freaking. Out.

Here’s a list of my current top thought starters, which I think is especially relevant for young professionals who love to live it up, but sometimes feel a bit lost (friends, I’m talking to YOU).

Disconnecting from Social Media. Do it.

  1.  The Innovation of Loneliness An awesome short video that everyone in today’s age should watch for some perspective (4 min), explaining the loneliness of social media and “sacrificing conversation for mere connection”.
  2. Think like Afrojack–inspired by Afrojack’s Ultra 2014 Set and Next Album, Forget the World.  Here’s a quote from a recent Rolling Stone article to get you started: “It’s basically a message not just to my fans, but also to myself, to always remember to keep following your heart, keep following your path, and never try to let the things around you get you down.”  He then goes and talks about social media changing our behaviors and to do things for yourself and not others.

Re-Organize Your Life and Thoughts and Don’t Get Caught Complaining.

  1. Life will be uncomplicated one day when you’re married with kids, you have a house in the woods, and your priorities have shifted…enjoy the complexity and uncertainty now“.  My colleague Dulce said this to me in the car just over two years ago and it still rings strongly.  We don’t have to have everything figured out right now.
  2. Are you doing everything you expected to be doing at 25?
    With most of our friends in the same stage of life where we aren’t sure what’s next, I find a lot of us just venting our confusion.  Let’s bring it back to re-prioritizing.  See my old blog from about two years ago where I re-evaluated my roles in life and explained Covey’s quadrants to re-prioritize.  If you are feeling ambitious and really lost, try  7 Habits of Highly Effective People Personal Workbook  by Stephen Covey – an all-time favorite for people of the Covey era, but unfortunately not very popular among our generation (probably why we are all so confused about what our next steps are).
  3. Get out of Your Comfort Zone! For me this was swimming in the ocean for the first time in ten years last month (I know this is sad, haha!) and re-attempting yoga in January.    I’ve gone to 25 classes at Yoga to the People and I’ve never been so relaxed.   Without the extremely uncomfortable initial 4 classes of falling over and kicking a neighbor, I would have missed out!
  4. YOLOYou Only Live Once.  Why not live a little and relax a bit when you feel like things are out of control?  (Remember Avicii’s “I Could Be the One”!) Also, let’s be real–you’ll probably laugh in ten years at how dramatic you were when you were 25.

Don’t Forget Your Social Conscience and Where You Came From

  1. Feel good about watching Upworthy.   Yes, it’s for-profit and one of my friends says “it’s just another way for people to pretend they know what’s going on in the world and pretend to support it even if they aren’t actually doing anything”.  Fair point, but doesn’t the conversation and culture change have to start somewhere?  And what about the huge power of making something relatively unknown super popular?  And the for-profit bit–at least they are sustainable.  Hey, yes, you can fairly say you are actually doing something when you are inspired to think differently and more socially and encouraging others to do so as well.
  2. Take care of your friends. Don’t let them do drugs or take unnecessary risks.

    “Friends, we’ve got to take care of each other. If you’re on the inside, you get it. This music + its people can take you to the moon. Don’t put yourself in danger. Let the real magic get you there.”–Kaskade

    How do we start the step-change to get people to just enjoy the music?

Stop and take notice when something is beautiful.  With our go-go-go lives we forget this sometimes, but here are some interesting things in design I’ve been thinking about (a lot less heavy than the above!): 

  1. Duarte - Story-telling.  I sat through an 8 hour class that went 50/50 between how to organize a story and also how to deliver it graphically from a design perspective to have the greatest impact. It’s an incredible way of breaking down about pitch you are presenting to someone!  Also, check out Diagrammer - an awesome resource for all of your diagramming needs :-).
  2. Helvetica - a movie about Helvetica, a super common font that we don’t realize is everywhere.  It’s from 2007 and you can find it on Netflix.

Moon Cakes – Kwong Wah Cake Co.

Kwong Wah Cake Co. Moon Cakes Chinese NYC

Whenever I don’t know something about Asian culture, I always get a “you didn’t know that?”  Hey now, I’m actually an ABC (American Born Chinese) and you can’t possibly expect me to know everything.

My latest discovery are the different (weird) stuffings for mooncakes.  A group of Chinese Americans brought me to Kwong Wah Cake Co.; to their surprise I bought one of every flavor with full shock-and-awe exclamations and they had each only bought a snack for the day. Whoops!

Kwong Wah Cake Co. is a petite bakery on Grand St and Mott, just a stone’s throw away from Di Palo’s, my favorite deli.

They have a few flavors (which all also come in a salted yolk option–it looks like a hardboiled egg yolk in your mooncake):

  • Black bean –  a sweetened black/red bean, not those funky fermented ones that come with your Chinese takeout black bean sauces
  • Coconut – a shredded coconut with nuts that is only barely sweet by comparison to your typical American coconut dessert.
  • Mixed nuts – a semi chewy composite of coarsely ground nuts (though my Grandmother remarks that they should have been whole nuts, that probably would have broken her teeth!!)
  • Mixed nuts with ham (photo above) – the same mixed nut moon cake with some additional pork
  • Lotus seed/White Lotus seed – I’ve been told this is the most authentic and luxurious.  The funny thing about demand is that now this filling is also mass produced and is easily found in Chinese supermarket boxes.

 

Kwong Wah Cake Co.
210 Grand St # A
New York, NY 10013

 

If you are interested in more mooncake information this site proved pretty comprehensive: http://www.chinatownconnection.com/chinese-mooncake.htm

Beaumarchais

Beaumarchais.  I’m not sure where to start.  The food and cocktails were good yet overpriced, which was a clear reflection of the crowd.  Go to Beaumarchais to people watch, see people, and be seen.  It was a mixed crowd mostly with tables of solely men or solely women popping magnum bottles of Veuve Cliquot.  Everyone seemed to be significantly older, around 35-45, but dressed to impress.  I’m always a little confused by this loud music brunch scene where people dress up.  Did you not have a good enough time the night before?  If I’m going to drop $50 on pancakes and a drink, I’d personally rather being doing it at a homey foodie brunch place to unwind from the night before’s excitement.

While I can say we did feel fabulous and the music was great, it also felt like the place we would hope to go to have brunch when we are in our 40s, have too much money, are trying to escape our husbands, and are dying to be young again.  (friends, +15 years consider it a date!)

I ordered the Croque Madame, a modest open faced sandwich with salad on the side.  It had a nice truffle flavor and good cheese, but didn’t really blow my mind.  It sort of reminds me of what I eat for breakfast everyday at home so I was left wanting something more.
Croque Madame Beaumarchais

Oh, and that sundae with less than perfect marshmallows that everyone (including us) was ordering just really confused me…and made me feel very very silly.  If the ice cream, marshmallows and whipped cream were homemade I’d have less of a problem and would maybe even pay more considering it was a dessert to share…but no, it was all grocery store quality and the ice cream wasn’t that great.  Hurray food-markups just for a pish-posh atmosphere!  Yes I love food, but I have to at least have the illusion that I can not get the exact same thing elsewhere for dirt cheap.  Well, okay maybe the sparkler that came on top helped a little…ok, no.
Sundae Beaumarchais

The final word?  Go for the pish-posh party atmosphere if your pockets allow for it, but don’t expect mind blowing food.

 

409 W 13th St  New York, 10014 | (212) 675-2400

Brother Jimmy’s UWS

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I had a fabulous time eating overpriced mediocre food and drinking super sugary mixed drinks.  Let’s be blunt, you don’t really go to Brother Jimmy’s to eat good food or find fine cocktails.  My friend and I ordered the Swamp Water (a strange sugary cocktail of well liquor and juice) that comes in a fantastic 64 oz. fish bowl filled with a plastic crocodile and neon straws.  By far the highlight of the meal, despite how disgusting it truly was.

Of course we were extra courageous after the fish bowl to starting using flash…haha.

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Oh and we also ordered the Jimmy’s Pig Pick to share.  Hush puppies were dry, along with all the meat.  I wouldn’t recommend the food and definitely wouldn’t expect more than a (almost cheap) bro bar.  They are all over the city, but in the future I think I’m going to just stick to beer and I suggest you do too.  Pick up some Fette Sau or Hill Country instead.

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