Meet Han Feng, Chinese Designer Extraordinaire

Han Feng Modeling one of her Gorgeous Shawls

This past trip to Shanghai, I finally met the Chinese designer, Han Feng. Han Feng is a friend of my mother’s and is often jet setting between Shanghai and New York. She is world renowned for her costumes in operas and has designed for Madama Butterfly, The Bonesetter’s Daughter and Semele. Her recent silk bird lanterns were exhibited in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Han Feng's Silk Fabric Bird Lantern

My mother owned a few of her gorgeous items and I couldn’t wait to meet Han Feng and see her studio in Shanghai. Her work is breathtaking. There is so much attention to detail and some of the designs are very avant-garde. Seeing her clothes made me wish I had a fancy gala to attend (and that she could make me a one-of-a-kind dress).

Inside Han Feng's Studio in Shanghai

Scarves Galore! All Adorned with Han Feng's Signature Flowers.

Her Purses Remind me of a Phoenix About to Take Flight

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I Left my Stomach in NYC

MMM... Doughnuts

I went to New York over President’s Day weekend and it was another glorious weekend of eating and shopping. It would probably take me close to a decade to detail all of my meals so I’ll just pick the best of the best.

I’ve already professed my love for Doughnut Plant’s crème brûlée doughnut, but I think I have a new favorite–tres leches cake doughnut.  Doughnut Plant’s cake doughnuts aren’t too heavy and their frosting isn’t very sweet. I also really liked how the cake doughnuts are moist too. The tres leches doughnut even had that same “soaked cake” as a normal tres leches cake. I would definitely recommend any of their cake doughnuts and I also tried their blueberry one, which was also delicious.

Friedmans

Friedman's Lunch in Chelsea Market

Short Rib Hash

Short Rib Sweet Potato Hash

By far, the best thing I ate all weekend was the short rib sweet potato hash at Freidman’s Lunch inside Chelsea Market. I’ve never seen sweet potato in a hash before but I think it’s the best idea ever. The short ribs were so tender and slightly sweet. I talked to the waiter and the cook spends the entire night before cooking the short rib. The combination of short rib and sweet potatoes went really well together and they were topped with two poached eggs with a little bit of hollandaise sauce. You have to order this dish if you go to Friedman’s Lunch.

Cheese  Crème Brûlée

Cheese Crème Brûlée at White and Church

Crepe Cake at Lady M

Crepe Cake at Lady M

I had dinner at White and Church, which was a cozy modern European restaurant in TriBeCa. The real star of the night was the cheese crème brûlée and it’s served with crostini bread slices. I’m sure it sounds weird, but the sweet and savory combination went together perfectly. It didn’t have the same smooth consistency as normal crème brûlée. I could ignore the more gritty texture because the pecorino cheese paired perfectly with burnt sugar topping. I’ve never had anything like it before, but I would gladly eat it again!

I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about the crepe cake at Lady M in the Upper East Side. My sister had recommended it (the woman may possibly be a bigger foodie than me) and a co-worker also separately recommended it. After an exhausting visit to the MoMA, I walked the 1.5 miles over to Lady M. I’m not going to lie. I almost gave up and turned around to go home, but I powered through for the sake of cake. I’m SO glad that I did. The crepe cake is layers of crepe with a thin layer of whipped cream in between each crepe. I liked how the “cake” was actually really light and who doesn’t love the buttery taste of a nice, well-made crepe?

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How I fell in love with Chelsea, New York

Chelsea Market

My foodie heaven, Chelsea Market

I cannot claim to be a New York expert at all. Considering my last trip in July was only my 2nd trip ever to this glorious city, I am a self-proclaimed New York neophyte. I was excited to explore my New York friend Emily’s neighborhood, Chelsea.

Emily semi-joked that she never travels outside of her 5-block radius and I can see why! Chelsea has everything. Who needs to travel when Murray’s Bagel will deliver 2 bagels and cream cheese to your door? Let’s not forget that New Yorkers have laundry service where people come to your door and drop-off your freshly-pressed clothing. Um, if I lived in New York, I’m pretty sure I’d be a lazy, fat cat ordering bagels and demanding people to come pick up my laundry.

Sour Cherry Shaved Ice

Sour Cherry Shaved Ice

I adored Chelsea Market. As an indoor market, it’s a foodie’s mecca, full of bakeries, fresh produce, wine and spirits, and so much more. For those of you trying to escape the NY heat, Chelsea Market is air-conditioned and has this cool, underground feel. My friends and I definitely indulged in treats like shaved ice, crêpes and cupcakes.

From Chelsea Market, you can climb the recently renovated High Line. What was originally an elevated railroad track for freight trains is now a GORGEOUS mile-and-a-half-long public park.

I loved how there were lots of public spaces to sit and cool-shaped benches. I could totally imagine just spending a lazy afternoon reading a book on the High Line or having a group picnic on one of the lawns. The views from the High Line are just as impressive. You can see New York modern architecture at its best with modern apartments juxtaposed with classic buildings (like the Desmond Tutu Center!). If you go to New York, you have to check out the High Line and spend time walking the entire path. At the end (north), you’ll find Tom Colicchio’s outdoor food truck and beer garden waiting for you at the Lot.

Views from High Line

Views from High Line

Outdoor seating at High Line

Outdoor seating at High Line

Tom Colicchio's Food Truck and Beer Garden

Tom Colicchio's Food Truck and Beer Garden

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Bobby Flay knows his sh*t

I’ve already discussed how I watch an exorbitant amount of television and this also includes food-related shows. I love Top Chef. When I went to Vegas a couple of months ago, I planned my entire trip around restaurants featured in the Top Chef Las Vegas edition. I watched the not-very-good America’s Next Great Restaurant hosted by Bobby Flay and am currently watching The Next Food Network Star, which is also hosted by Mr. Flay.

As I gathered suggestions for restaurants in New York, the amazing Rhiannon sent me a list of places, including Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain. 5 minutes later, I made a reservation to eat at Bar Americain with my New York friend, Emily.

Walla Walla Onion Tart. Only thing we didn't like.

Wild Mushroom Salad

Shrimp and Grits (and bacon!!!)

Pièce de résistance, Porterhouse Lamb Chops

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New York Baked Goods Galore

I didn’t end up gorging myself with sweets as much as I thought I would on this trip. Still, I thought it would be worthwhile to discuss some of the delicious (and not so delicious) baked goods I sampled while in the Big Apple. Besides Doughnut Plant and La Maison du Macaron, I checked out the adorable Three Tarts in Chelsea. The store was a unique combination of a dessert store AND a cute gift store.

Bite-sized treats

What I liked about Three Tarts was the fact that their desserts were small and not overwhelming. We tried to goat cheese, blood orange panna cotta and the raspberry parfait. While the panna cotta was good, I didn’t like the goat cheese flavor. It was too strong and I normally associate panna cotta with something light. The parfait had a raspberry curd with creme fraiche layers. I loved it. It reminded me of Haagen-Dazs’ raspberry and vanilla yogurt bars. The marshmallows were a gift for my foodie sister and she said they were VERY good. Great consistency with lots of flavor. She personally liked the passionfruit more than the raspberry. The store also had a bunch of gifts and random knick knacks, and they also ship some of their items too!

I appreciate the beautiful presentation.

I tried the special 4th of July cupcake at Eleni’s in Chelsea Market. It was a blueberry cupcake with a white frosting. While moist, it reminded me of a blueberry muffin and not really a cupcake. I thought that their cookies were unique with colorful designs. Don’t really think you need to go out of your way to eat here.

My amazing friend once hand carried and brought me a cupcake from New York to San Francisco. It was a lemon cupcake from Buttercup Bakery and the frosting AMAZED me. It was nice and sour and not heavy at all. I’m not normally a big fan of frosting (unless it’s cream cheese frosting), but I was impressed by Buttercup’s. The cake was a little dry, but I figured that the cupcake was 24 to 48 hours old. A fresh one could only taste better, right?

Lemon cupcake (left) and Lady Baltimore (right)

I walked over a mile in 90 degree New York heat to go to Buttercup and it was so disappointing. While the lemon cupcake frosting was just as delicious, I found the cake dry and kind of tasteless. I also ordered the Lady Baltimore cake, which was an almond-flavored white cake frosted with meringue and topped with coconut, cookie crumble and cherry halves. Doesn’t that sound sooo good?! No, run away! The meringue topping was gooey and had the consistency of cool whip. The cake had zero almond flavor and the whole thing was as disgusting as a used diaper filled with Indian food (Yes, it’s as gross as Sex Panther from Anchorman). Continue reading

New York’s best kept secret, The Desmond Tutu Center

Reminds me of Hogwarts

Since I was traveling by myself, my mother made me promise to stay in a hotel and not in a hostel. I agreed with her and thought my safety was more important than to trying to save a few dollars. I started looking on travel websites and scoured for a good deal. I’m super glad that my New York friend Emily suggested a couple of hotels, one of them being the Desmond Tutu Center.

Right in the heart of Chelsea, the Desmond Tutu Center is in a great neighborhood. It’s close by subway stops and also on a main street so it was extremely easy getting a cab. I was surprised how affordable the rates were and how nice the rooms looked. Then I found out that they had AAA discounts. I was sold. While the other hotels cost way more than $200 a night over the July 4th weekend, the Desmond Tutu Center only charged about $180 a night.

Perfect outdoor seating area.

The Desmond Tutu Center is actually home to a seminary too (although the divinity school students were on summer vacation). I totally felt like I was walking into Harry Potter’s Hogwarts or like an East Coast college campus. The building had a beautiful garden and  really cute sitting area.

When I checked in, they upgraded my room from a queen size bed to two beds for free. Apparently, each of the 60 hotel rooms are all different. Our room was HUGE and super clean. I also greatly appreciated the central air conditioning and free water, tea and coffee in each room. Wifi was also included too!

What I appreciated the most was the security. When I came back past midnight, I had to ring a doorbell in order to be let into the building. There’s always someone working at the front desk who can easily buzz you in. My mother would have been proud.

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