There’s a story attached to that plaque, from a bench in Central Park. I wish I knew what it was…

Anyhoo – how embarrassing: falling asleep for two whole weeks and not making any effort to blog since coming back from America. I feel like the kind of date who says ‘Yeah, of course I’ll call you…’ and then selfishly buggers off. And I’ve not really been commenting on many blogs either…

Interweb, I’m very sorry for being so appallingly ill-mannered. Is there any way I can make it up to you?

Guess I should at least make a start by writing up my NY trip. In reality, I spent more time in New Jersey for work (locked in a windowless room as it happens), but I did spend the weekend in Manhattan. And it was fun.

Let’s go with the food-related stuff, what with this being a mostly food-type blog…

Union Square Farmers’ Market. Oh yes. This was something I was very excited about.  The downside being that I couldn’t really buy anything, what with being a tourist… But I did gawp at all the cheeses, meats, baked goods, piles of shiny apples and so many different types of salad leaves that I wanted to move over for six months and just eat greenery. Look, I could furnish my boho loft apartment with some of those cute plants over there… How much does it cost to live around here? Really? Oh, ok then – back to gawping.

In the end I did find something to take away with me. Honey from bees kept in New York. Which conjured up an image of swarms humming between the top of Trump Tower and the Rockafeller Center or something. But no, they’re usually kept on top of residential blocks and occasionally moved on when people complain, said Mr Beekeeper, mentioning also that it wasn’t strictly legal to keep bees this way. Which gave me another image of stealth beekeeping – covertly moving hives under cover of darkness, always on the run from the man. 

Chinese food – for shame, I picked up the card for the restaurant we went to but I can’t find it now. It’s in mid-town Manhattan if that helps. But probably not. Tea-smoked shredded duck that I couldn’t stop eating because I couldn’t believe how good it tasted; addictive Yibin-spiced asparagus (need to find out what goes into the flavouring); Tangerine Prawns – lightly battered monster prawns with a delicate sauce; char sui buns that melted like fluffy little clouds when you took a bite… Oh boy, we rolled out of that place burping contentedly and many pounds heavier. 

Magnolia Bakery. We didn’t find it. I think we went the wrong way up Bleeker Street, to be honest. And then I got too grumpy/tired/stroppily childlike to turn around and go looking for sodding cupcakes. Yes, that’s how bad I was – I couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for my favourite pastime of eating cake. The only person I was letting down was myself…

We did stumble on GROM, though – an icecream shop offering up all-natural ingredients and many tempting seasonal treats (they have a menu that changes monthly), with the accompanying price mark-up you’d expect. So we parked our throbbing feet in the square nearby for a while, happily slurping lemon granita and gianduja icecream. (And I eyeballed the nearby Beard Papas too – but I’d had my fill of sweet things at that point. Another time.)

Also wandered past the famous cheese shop, Murray’s of Bleeker Street – lots of fun to browse around. But again, the problem with being a food tourist is that you can’t always take the stuff home with you.

Crate & Barrel – Maybe it was just the thrill of finding somewhere new but there were just so many, many wonderful objects for a crockery junkie like me to lust over. Then rapidly calculate how much I could whack on my credit card and bring back (the photos on the website don’t always do the products justice, by the way).

We’ve ended up with a beautiful green jug and chunky glasses for long, cool (probably alcohol-filled) drinks during the summer months. And a large green serving platter shaped like a leaf. And some fun little serving dishes. And some cute-as-anything tea towels with cupcakes on them. And salad spoons. Styling props you understand for, er, future pictures on this blog. An investment if you will. Convinced? Me neither…

Williams Sonoma – good God, another homeware shop from heaven? My system can’t handle this much bounty and neither can my luggage allowance. After seriously considering the giant cupcake mould as a present for a friend, I end up dragging back a bag full of Meyer lemon curd, maple syrup, cacao nibs, olive oil, chocolate-dipped apricots for my mum and madeleine pans, convinced I can stuff these items down the sides of my suitcase and get them home in one piece.* 

In the end, I unwittingly managed to come in just two pounds shy of my luggage allowance. I couldn’t have planned it better if I’d tried. Plus there was that big bag of crockery that I lugged onboard with me. I’m now lopsided from toting that ten-tonne weight around but it was worth it.

Next time around, I’d plan better. This is a recurring theme of our trips: we always enjoy ourselves but a bit of advance planning for say, restaurants, might go a long way to enhancing the experience rather than just stumbling around accidentally finding things, however much fun that might be. How do you do your holidays? Do you go off wandering or are you a plan-it-all-out-kind of person? There’s benefits to both ways and I’m curious how everyone else does it.

Right, I’m off to play with madeleine pans and think about making icecream from the Murphy brothers new book. Summer’s finally making an appearance (sort of) and it’s time to celebrate 🙂

*And, in the end, nothing broke!