Concrete Jungle Where Balls Drop

I truly enjoyed New York the last time I visited, but this trip was as stressful as getting to Times Square on New Year’s Eve in heels. We had to walk all the way up to Central Park and enter 7th Ave from there because all the horizontal streets were blocked off. Not to mention, we also paid exhorbitant amounts for hotels in Times Square, where everyday, I had to fend off the stand-up comedy club flyers and walk away from the smell of roasted peanuts and halal carts (mixed with trash bags piled on sidewalks — a post snowstorm nuisance).

Another item to cross off my list:
[x] Watched the ball drop on New Year’s in Times Square with a million people!

However, when you couple good food with sucessful book launch events — I’d deem this trip worthy of all the times I nearly slipped on ice and lost another button on my favorite coat (three to be exact, by the end of the trip).

In New York, there’s a difference between downtown and downtown, and as all the locals advised, the food downtown really is much better. Ipuddo ramen didn’t taste as good the second time around (did their noodles get skinnier?), but let me tell you about Lombardi’s, another Yelp-recommended foodie destination, which we metro’d and trekked to in the rain, then waited one hour to be seated.

Lombardi’s Pizza
32 Spring St.
New York, NY 10012

Between just Ryan and me, we ordered a large pizza (half white, half margherita) with added spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes; and since we were probably never coming back to “America’s very first pizzeria”, Ryan decided to add a small clam pie to our order as our waitress raised an eyebrow and asked, “You’re taking some to-go, right?”

Here’s what I really like about Lombardi’s. The clam pizza is purely clams — no cheesy tomato nonsense — just clams on crunchy thin-crust. The white pizza has mozzarella, ricotta, romano cheese, and a hint of basil and oregano — once again, no sauciness to it, just pizza bread, creamy light cheese, and toppings. That was my favorite. Instead of tasting really greasy, it was absolutely delicious because the ricotta melted in your mouth and the flavors weren’t overpowered by any sauces; I could taste all the toppings. The house pizza, the margherita, contains the tomato sauce (which you’d normally expect on pizza), but I felt like that one turned out a bit soggy as all the toppings slid right off and I ended up eating “pizza” without the crust.

Now before I turn this blog into another Yelp diary (though that may not be such a bad idea considering that Yelp didn’t renew my elite badge…), here’s almost all of the food we ate in New York (minus the really bad dishes):


I highly recommend getting Korean BBQ at Madangsui, trying the raw bar and sashimi from Blue Fin, and grabbing cocktails and wine from Aureole (we happened to be sitting next to the man — Charlie Palmer — himself). However, I do not recommend eating at Carmine’s if you’re only a party of two, because one dish alone is enough to feed a family of four+. I also do not recommend walking into random restaurants without doing prior Yelp research, since we ended up having horrible experiences at two such places (though we did have a stroke of good luck with Sharaku, which in my opinion, was very decent Japanese food for such good prices and no wait time).

Now the events. January 4, the Asian American Writer’s Workshop was kind enough to host a launch party for us, complete with Taiwanese bao’s by Eddie Huang of Bauhaus (paired with Laotian beer — AAWW, you guys rock). Eddie started the night by reading a priceless email from his mother regarding Sifton’s harsh review of Xiao Ye. I think his mom is a prime example of the Amy Chua-like tiger mom… who still has a lot of [tough] love to give.

Following Eddie, Jennifer 8. Lee, New York Times journalist of nine years and author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, told an endearing and humorous tale of her mother’s efforts to cook “Americanized” food, one result being turkey dumplings. After that, Ed Lin, author of Waylaid (2002), This Is a Bust (2007), and Snakes Can’t Run (2010), read an introspective yet sarcastic piece on Christmas dinner with his extended Asian family — complete with belching and cackling sound effects.

Spoken word artist, Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai, performed a beautiful piece about her mother, which brought tears to my eyes (except I was on stage and had to keep them in). The words that stuck with me were “giving up passion for perfection”, used to describe so many of our Asian immigrant parents, obsessed with providing the best for us by sacrificing their own lives (studying the most lucrative fields, working jobs they dislike… overtime). At the end, AAWW’s Executive Director, Ken, moderated a Q&A sesh for Teresa and me before we wrapped up, signed some books, and walked to Ktown for some grub and soju.

I should probably mention that the 世界日報 (World Journal) interviewed us that night for this article, which Google Translate doesn’t explain to me clearly enough (but hey, my mom’s so proud she put it on her Facebook!). The Wall Street Journal also interviewed us for a bigger piece on blog-turned-books, so look out for that.

January 5, we had a smaller book reading and signing event at Posman Books in Chelsea Market, during which Teresa and I read our favorite entries with our best fobby mom voices, then answered some questions from the audience. Afterwards, a Chinese news broadcasting channel interviewed us (aired Thursday night on the 6th at 10pm); if anyone somehow managed to tape that segment, please do share!

All in all, New York, I still like you.

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Thank you all so much to those who came out to our events! If you live in the Bay Area, don’t worry! There’s one more book signing event coming up on THURSDAY, JANUARY 20 AT BOOK PASSAGE (FERRY BUILDING IN SF) AT 6PM. Hope to see you all there!