16 Lessons I’ve Learned After 4 Years in New York

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I’ve made it something of a regular occurrence to post anniversary checkins every year at August 15, but this year, my fourth anniversary as a New Yorker came and went. Rather than a long winded essay—as is my wont—I thought it’d be appropriate to post some lessons I’ve learned so far. (Hashtag basic, amirite?) I posted a version of this on my Facebook, so apologies for the repetition.

Without further ado:

It’s ok to cry on the street. It’s even better to cry in an ATM vestibule. Let your account balance be your guide.

If you believe a cab is a quicker way from Point A to Point B, you WILL get stuck in traffic.

More money makes it easier to live here, yes, but don’t underestimate the restorative power of a walk through Central Park while eating a plain slice.

New Yorkers are a lot nicer than their reputation belies. Except the Times Square Cookie Monster. He’s an asshole.

Never tell a cabbie where you’re going until your ass is firmly in seat. Until then, be prepared to “call” the “cops” to “report” your cabbie’s refusal to drive to Brooklyn. Or Queens.

Queens liquor store

Your local bodega always has the best sandwiches. Boar’s Head for president.

New York/Harlem/Brooklyn/Queens is safe. Stop asking, MOM.

It’s ok to leave a date halfway through. Especially when they have to “take a coke break.” Bai, Crazy!

Be nice and smile. At the very least, people will smile back. At most, doors open.

If someone invites you to weekend country escape, TAKE IT. Go to a farm. Visit the North Fork. Travel upstate. Hating the city? Refresh and recharge by getting the fuck out of town.

Avoid liquids in public at all costs. Yes, that was a hot puddle of human garbage you just stepped in. And yes, you did just sit on pee in the subway. Accept the inevitable.

Flowers beneath the Manhattan Bridge

Feeling down? Find a song that makes you strut, put in your headphones and hit the pavement.

Never wait in line. Whatever is inside the door is never worth it. Spoiler: it’s a bar with shitty and expensive drinks.

Tip your bartender, server, busboy, any service person you cross paths with. Tip them well. Service karma is real, and service industry employees are paid too little to put up with shitty customers.

Get out of your neighborhood. Visit Harlem. Take advantage of the Met. Ride the Staten Island ferry. Go to Prospect Park. Eat everything on Arthur Ave. Don’t brag about having “never left the Island.” You sound like an idiot.

Holding hands in public with your boyfriend on a beautiful day is therapeutic. Make a habit of it.

Escape from New York: Shucking Oysters and Sipping Wine in Greenport, Long Island

Bait and Tackle Greenport

There we were, just wandering through Greenport, Long Island, looking for oysters and wine, when we stumbled upon this buzzy little shack upon the waterfront. Oysters? Check. Wine? You betcha.

Owned and operated by Little Creek Oyster Farm, this little bait and tackle shop was the wheelhouse of a whaling ship in a past life before being brought to shore. Sitting mostly empty for the last few years, its current iteration is bright, laid-back and personality-filled as the headquarters and shipping center for the oyster producer.

As soon as our group walked in, we were greeted with, “Are you my gin-and-tonic people?” Turns out the girl behind the counter was mine and Fiona’s regular server when we used to frequent Two Boots in Grand Central Station for a post-work happy hour drink! It was a pleasant surprise to run into her so far from New York; she recently moved to Greenport to escape city life, and who can blame her? The village, with its waterfront and smattering of shops and restaurants, is at once charming, welcoming and relaxed.

Little Creek Oysters is stocked with vintage tackle gear, oyster knives, hot sauces and even oyster tasting journals. The main attraction, though, are the buckets of locally grown oysters (current offerings appear on the wall).

We glanced at the menu before rapid-fire ordering a bottle of Muscadet, a bucket of “shuck yourself” oysters and a selection of pickles. After everyone tried their hand at prying open the bivalves, I became the designated shucker in between sips of the crisp, salty white. Talk about a perfect pairing.

More Oysters

shucking materials

Of course, you can always order the platter of oysters (and clams!) pre-shucked, but where’s the fun in that?

Little Creek Oyster Farm
37 Front St, Greenport, NY 11944

Oysters at Little Oyster in Greenport, Long Island

Mix it Up: Apricot Collins

This refreshing cocktail upgrades the classic Tom Collins with a hit of melon vodka and seasonal, ripe apricots, resulting in a fruity summer sipper.

While everyone’s ‘gramming their farmer’s market berry finds (fine, guilty), I’ve been crushing on stone fruit like whoa. It’s that time of year, after all: ripe and fresh picked, stone fruit like apricot and peaches are just hitting their peak. Their sweet fragrance hit the air, and picking one up feels like it’s just about to explode out of its thin, delicate skin. Last week, I had my first peaches of the season from Briermere Farms in Long Island. There was an unfounded worry that they weren’t ripe enough to toss into an heirloom tomato salad. Our dinner party was so gratefully wrong. Of course, we had to wash down that healthful medley with the farm stand’s own still-warm peach pie. No regrets. Warm Peach Pie from Briermere Farms, North Fork

Then, there are apricots, which I think is wholly under-appreciated. I love it in a cobbler, but as I’m not a baker (still gonna use my cramped NYC-apartment as an excuse as long as I am able) and it’s hot as balls right now, my oven is gonna stay off. But how to use this sweet, fragrant golden fruit, you ask? Well, I love few things more than a crisp summer cocktail, and none fit that bill as easily as a Tom Collins. Nothing more than gin, lemon juice, simple and club soda, it comes together in no time. My take, though, kicks it up with fresh mint and melon vodka, adding a layer of freshness to the mix. Of course, you can sub in peaches for apricot. Let your farmer’s market haul be your guide. Modern mixology with apricot Tom Collins

Apricot Collins Recipe

1 apricot, quartered
1 sprig mint, plus extra for garnish
¾ ounce lemon juice
½ ounce simple syrup
1½ ounces Grey Goose Melon Vodka
Seltzer, to top
Apricot slice, for garnish

In a cocktail mixer, muddle together the sprig of mint and apricot. Top with the lemon juice, syrup and vodka, cover and shake until cold. Strain into a Collins glass with ice. Top with seltzer and garnish with the remaining mint and apricot slice. Serves 1. 

Escape from New York: Hudson, NY

Hudson River Lighthouse

It was just another one of those weekends when Ian and I had nothing on the books, but our need to leave the city was overwhelming. Adventure, or something like it, was calling.

Hudson, NY is by no means an exotic getaway, but it promised some respite from the urban grind. Just two hours via Amtrak from Penn Station, we both knew nothing about it except the direction we needed to head: North. Oh, and rumblings that Hudson and the surrounding region are the “new Brooklyn,” whatever that means.

Matthiasson Rose Label

We traded a sky that threatened rain for the verdant expanse of the Hudson River Valley.  The train ride up was pleasant enough, made all the more pleasant with gentle pop of a Matthiasson rosé, as crisp as the sky we traveled under. Between sips of wine and glances of the sweeping views, we were lulled into many micro catnaps, arriving at our destination just in time for lunch, rested AF.

Ferry lifesaver
The red train station greeted us as we began a short walk to Warren Street, the main drag. The area is marked with hundreds of historic homes, pretty-faced Federals and Victorians lining the quaint thoroughfare. A bevy of galleries, antique shops and small businesses are tucked into ground floor commercial spaces, offering up wares to the city folks who trek out of the way for deals and art that, in the city, would cost a month’s wages.

Ever watch Gilmore Girls? Yeah, Hudson is basically Stars Hollow. Young families strolled the streets, nursing melting ice cream cones from the scoop shop, Lick. Folks ducked into storefronts, greeted by proprietors at the door. Strangers smiled at strangers. It was all some kind of charming.

While we were only in town for a quick overnight, it was enough to whet our palate for more. Having taken a few trips upstate now, we’re increasingly feeling its pull. Here’s to more trips like it.
Sign: Lost Innocence, $6.98

Message in a Bottle: “Dude, It’s Rosé Season”


Some times, you want to wander through Brooklyn on a gorgeous spring Sunday, call up one of your favorite people and share a bottle of wine at the hot neighborhood wine bar. All this before heading to said friend’s place to gorge on a large pizza and scream-chew through Game of Thrones.

It’s all good, so long as the bottle you’ve fortified yourself with is Broc Wine’s rose-gold Cassia Grenache 2013 Mendocino Rosé. ‘Tis the season, after all. Gotta drink it up before the Hamptons get to it. And there’s no better place to do it than June Wine Bar in Cobble Hill. Delicately floral and bright, the Broc has the soft touch one needs before an hour of teeth-grindingly brutal television.


(Pro-tip: While at June, avoid the disapproving gaze of newly minted helicopter moms by steering clear of your bluer haha-material. And don’t trip on the strollers.)

Homesick for Mama’s Cooking: Filipino Garlic Rice


Like other Filipino boys growing up, my brothers and I would wake up on Saturday mornings to the sound of spitting oil and the hiss of garlic, a pungent cloud of hot allium filling the house. It was instinctual: Mom was thirty seconds from adding the last night’s rice to the pan. A minute or so after that, three ravenous little boys eager for grade-A cartoon time would descend on our poor mother, noisily feasting on garlic-studded rice heaps, crowned with an olive-oil fried egg and Jufran banana ketchup, a staple of Pinoy kitchens. We’d make short order of breakfast like locusts plaguing Egypt, before holing up with our Gameboys and TV for the rest of the morning. Dishes could wait.

Growing up, rice was available at every meal. For Mom, rice reaches levels beyond comfort food. Even if pasta graced the table, she’d still make a pot, anticipating her garlicky breakfast the next morning. Rice was mixed into pancit (stir-fried rice noodles—more rice!), accompanied lumpia (rice-paper wrapped egg rolls!) and spooned over adobo chicken (no rice in the dish, probably to my mother’s great shame). I felt like such an adult when my mom taught me how to wash and prep the fluffy, starchy white stuff for dinner, like I was doing my part for providing for the family. If only growing up were so easy.

When I visit home, without fail, there’s a heaping bowl of fried garlic rice awaiting me downstairs in the morning, Mom already digging into her breakfast. These days, I don’t make a lot of rice, but when I do, I always make a bit extra for that next-day hit of nostalgia. I’ll put an egg on it, natch, and I still add some Jufran, but mixed with Korean gochujang for a kick of spice.

Continue reading

How to Make a French 75

Light, elegant and über-refreshing, the French 75 is the classic cocktail you should be sipping all Spring and Summer.

As cocktails go, I love me a boozy fizzy lifting drink, and few are as classic as the French 75. Like all classic cocktails, it’s history is mired in murk and hearsay, but most people agree that it was likely invented in its current iteration 1927, at the height of Prohibition.

According to Liquor.com, though, the drink may have roots as far back as 1867, when Charles Dickens would sip a drink called the Champagne cup with a boost of Tom gin. And of course, nothing is new under the sun: adding gin to bubbly (plus citrus and sugar) ain’t really all that creative, but it sure as hell is delicious!  Continue reading

#EmptyMet Tour: Asses of Antiquity

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I got to do a fun thing yesterday: explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but after dark! I was invited by the Yahoo! Travel team to join a ragtag group of bloggers, travel media and the odd reality TV star to case tour the joint alongside one of the original social media gurus, Sree Sreenivasan, formerly of Columbia University and now the museum’s Chief Digital Officer.

I was invited a few weeks ago, so leading up to the day, I was pumped! Who doesn’t want to explore the Met without anyone else around? I had done something similar ages ago, at the Natural History Museum, so my expectations were set a little high. That particular visit was rife with demos, behind-the-scenes looks at exhibition creation, in-depth Q&As, and hey, even a little wine. What a treat!

This wasn’t that. Continue reading

3 Charming + Low-Key Institutions in Montreal

Most people—especially New Yorkers—fly south for the winter. You know, to those sunny climes where shedding clothes and getting tan is de rigeur. Miami, Puerto Rico, the DR.

Not us.

Inexplicably, me and Ian love the cold, but more precisely, we love being where people aren’t.

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Spending the first few days of the new year away from home is a spontaneous tradition we started for ourselves, and something I’m grateful for. Having done it now two years in a row, these trips are a chance to assess our personal and dual goals, while also indulging us in adventures.

Which is why on New Year’s, we packed our bags and fled to Montreal. 

I’m shit at French, and Ian is un peu better than me, but that didn’t stop us from walking the city’s low-line streets. In the infamous Quebec chill. On a goddamn sheet of ice.

I can positively report that reports of Montreal’s good looks are not an exaggeration. Neighborhoods like Mile End, Plateau and Petit Italie (where we stayed) reminded me of the best parts of Chicago, Boston and Brooklyn, processed through a Francophile filter: urbane, tree-lined and welcoming. Despite the holiday weekend and freezing temps, a buzzing commingling of French and English filled the frozen air with an easy-going energy. Shops like the famous Drawn & Quarterly were inviting, and restaurants seemingly pumped out their delicious kitchen smells, enticing us to stop and stay awhile. Continue reading

Meandering in Montreal

So I spent the first few days of 2015 walking like a duck. Thanks a lot, Montreal.

Per our random, not-at-all official New Years tradition of traveling deeper into the very heart of winter (last year was Burlington, VT), we decided to ditch NYC’s glut of festivities, trading noisemakers and party hats for French-speaking lumbersexuals and poutine instead.

It was both of our first times in Montreal, and despite an inch-thick baby glacier covering the ground throughout the city 90% of our time there, it was actually an amazing time. (Exhibit A: My Instagram feed.)

More in-depth posts forthcoming (‘cuz guess who has a resolution to keep up?), but here’s a highlight video I stitched together of our time in the city.
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As I play around with my camera, and its video capabilities, please let me know what you think!