Food in the City #2

Well, the day-to-day struggle of being in a PhD program gives few opportunities to enjoy the variety of food available in New York.

For the last two months I’ve basically survived on

  • No_rest_for_the_grad_students_that_have_a_metrics_midterm_on_Monday__gradlife__teacherscollege__columbiauniversity__econometrics__studying
    As much as I may complain about libraries around here, I’m so grateful they have some areas where you can eat food and study!

    meal prep.

    • This involved a further knowledge of the differences between shopping in Spain vs. US. It took me a while to realise that, except for vegetable milk, dairy milks are always refrigerated. In my country you can buy three or four and keep them in your pantry for a month or so. Does that mean it has more additives? Maybe, but it’s so convenient, given that sometimes when I buy milk it expires in less than a week!
    • What do I have to do so that there’s a Trader Joe’s near the CU campus? And no, the one on 72nd street doesn’t count. It feels so awkward to take the subway back home with a load of groceries, being a nuisance to pretty much everyone around me.
  • extremely simple and fast dinners.Light_dinner_and_Math__Tomato_soup_from_Trader_Joe_s_is_the_best___norestforthewicked__norestforgradstudents__gradlife__maths__healthyfood__tomatosoup__salad__spinach__kale__food
  • frozen meals, every time I had one of these a part of my soul died.
  • the occasional free food in campus, which isn’t as healthy as I wished it would be. But, hey, it’s free!
  • Having_a_healthy_lunch__Thanks__sweetgreen__you_ll_be_certainly_seeing_me_again___salad__lunch__avocobbo__sweetgreen__healthyfood__foodie__newyorkadventuresand the slightly-overpriced custom salads at Sweetgreens after realising I couldn’t possibly eat grocery-store bought sandwiches on a weekly basis.

But after the end of midterms I decided that I should go out at least a couple of times!

2015-10-28 20.33.21-2

On the first day I had two slices of pizza at the Famous Famiglia Pizzeria near campus. I was feeling particularly miserable that day so I ordered the cheese slice with extra cheese. Yes. That’s a lot of cheese. I only realised this afterwards, usually the type of cheese slices you get in Spain (or in cheaper places in NYC) have a ironically small amount of cheese on them.

A couple of days after I went shopping for a winter coat, boots, and all sorts of wintery attire around Midtown with a friend. After that we ended up having dinner in K-Town. Our first stop was in Woorjip, where you can either buy ready-made food packages or fill your plate in a buffet. It was my first experience with Korean food and I really liked it! It has a spicy flavour that is quite different from what I’m used to and it was very tasty.

2015-10-28 21.33.37After that I discovered the existence of that wonderful place called Spot Desert Bar. When I told my friends about this place they weren’t very impressed. Is it simply a restaurant that only serves sweet stuff? An over-priced café or pastry shop? Not quite! I do agree that it is expensive, but the deserts (not pastries) are really elaborated and delicious. My friend and I shared two and both were heavenly. I think it’s a place where you’d go with three or four friends, order one desert each and share!

Food and the City #1

I’ve been here for almost two weeks now and, unfortunately, I haven’t been to as many restaurant as I’d like but that’s what happens when you’re on a student budget.

First_pancakes___pancakes__brunch__newyork__uptown__morningsideheights__foodSo far I’ve only been to Henry’s and had delicious lemon-ricotta pancakes. One of the best thing about this place is that they offer free complementary muffins (two small muffins per head).

Also, in one of my walks around the city I stopped by Levain Bakery and had the best cookie of my life. It is a bit expensive ($4) but certainly worth it once in a very long while if you want to treat yourself.

So far, I’ve been mostly cooking at home. The first few days I had almost nothing to cook with, which gave rise to some interesting combinations such as: stir-fried tofu with summer squash, cheese, and teriyaki sauce. I know it seems like I’m breaking the Law by doing this, but it is delicious!

Going to the supermarket has certainly been an experience. For one, some items are way more expensive than in Spain:

  • fresh meat
  • fresh fish
  • most fresh vegetables (mushrooms!!)
  • nuts (those are hell of expensive)
  • yogurt
  • cereals
  • cheese
  • salads (the cheaper I could find was plain mixed salad for $4, around 200g)

There are, however, some things that are cheaper:

  • oats (hello future breakfast for the next five years)
  • peanut butter (yay!). Incidentally, there are around two dozens of different types of PB?
  • kale
  • sugar-free and low- or non-fat foods

And I think that’s pretty much it. However, I must admit the variety of fruits and vegetables is far greater than the average Spanish supermarket.

So far I’ve discovered summer squash, Californian avocado (looking forward to try these), kale, sweet potatoes all year long!, all the different types of non-dairy milk you could possibly imagine, infinite types of cereals, swiss chard, and many other things that I haven’t noticed yet. And, of course, the sweets section is quite enormous. Also, the sizes/portions are larger than in Europe.

So, back in Spain I usually had oatmeal in the morning, but for some reason I was able to eat them warm. I’m not able to do so in this country, so I had to turn to overnight oatmeal, which is still pretty good.

Prepare the oats the night before. You’ll need:FullSizeRender-2

  • 1 cup of milk. I usually only use 1/2cup milk and use water for the other half. Perhaps it is less flavourful but you can compensate that by adding other stuff.
  • 1/2 oats (traditional, not steel-cut)
  • optional: 1 or 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
  • optional: vanilla extract or beans, cinnamon powder, chocolate powder.
  • optional: sweetener of choice.

Put the oats on a bowl, pour the milk/water, cover, and let it refrigerate until next morning. Incidentally, I’ve actually let the bowl stay for two nights and the result was as good.

In the morning you can also add some toppings:

  • fruits: berries, banana, mango, apple, pear, etc.
  • all kinds of nuts (I wouldn’t go with PB, it mixes better with warm oatmeal)
  • coconut flakes

Pretty much anything that may add some flavour or crunchiness is usually a good topping!

FullSizeRenderFinally, as I have mentioned before, one of the good things of this country is that peanut butter is so, so cheap.

One of my most recent culinary mischiefs is to mix greek yogurt with crunchy peanut butter.

Settling in

It has been almost a week since I arrived to NYC and I still have another one until the craziness starts.

During these days I’ve been going around submitting files, signing papers (my first apartment lease, I almost feel like an adult!), and general administrative stuff.

I also had to move in to my new apartment, which I share with someone else. My room is larger than the one in Barcelona, it also has a window facing Broadway. Besides a desk, chair, bed, and drawer, my room was completely empty. So I went three times to Bed, Bath, and Beyond (the US equivalent to IKEA I guess) to buy all sorts of stuff.

I admit, three times may sound like two more than a normal person should need, but for me it was the first time I moved into somewhere new. For my whole life I had been living in the same apartment (with my parents) so there were a lot of things like rubbing alcohol, dishes, kitchen paper, trash bins and trash bags, that were simply there, in apparently endless supply.

Therefore, it was a gradual process for me to realise what was missing or what I needed.

During these days I’ve also had the time to familiarise myself with the neighbourhood I live in. It is certainly not such a frantic and exciting environment as in Downtown but I actually don’t mind much!

See? They even have a green top like zucchinis!

There are two bookshops five minute from where I live and the most-admired New York Public Library (I plan to become a member really soon). On the practical side, there are also several supermarkets.

But then there are the huuuuuuge supermarkets where you can find everything. I’m still in awe of the 10-meter corridor full of all the types of milk you could ever imagine. They even had Downton tea! I did not even see it when I was in the UK! Despite having a much wider variety of pretty much everything in the US, there is one aspect where I’m sure to miss Spain: meat and fish. In big supermarkets you can, of course, find fresh meat and fish, but most of the time it is already sliced (never trust already sliced fish!) or frozen. Also, there is certainly less variety, especially for fish. I’m sure I’ll manage to survive and I’m looking forward to the new types of food I’ll discover!

But there is nothing like a good Spanish jamón.

Just a short note, I’ve just seen a video where someone claims they can make sushi filled with chips. NO. I’m all for trying new things in the kitchen but this is a sacrilege akin to butter-fried oysters.

I’ve mostly eaten at home but yesterday some friends invited me to have brunch where I had some amazing lemon-ricotta pancakes. Yes, I know two lines above I was criticising American cuisine but… this is completely different! Right? It’s not as if I’d go for pancakes or french toasts (which I must admit are far superior to the Spanish torrijas) every morning but it’s certainly something I’d treat myself to if I wanted to celebrate anything.

Anyway, today I’ll be (almost) done with all the productive stuff I had to do so hopefully I’ll be able to explore a little bit more of the city.

Living Alone and the Culture Shock: An Ex-ante Approach

In less than 48 hours I will leave my hometown – the city where I’ve lived ever since I was born – and move to NYC.

I’ve spent those last two days packing for the journey. This made me realise how much stuff I have. Not only clothes but also… things, gadgets, random objects accumulated over the years. And yet it was tough to decide what to leave behind. 2015-06-27 17.48.33

I’m only carrying a handful of books:

  • Poeta en Nueva York by Federico García Lorca, the set of poems the writer composed while studying at Columbia University and while traveling around the area.
  • Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire, my favourite book of poems.

Also, a general guide to New York, a guide to the “literary” New York, and a couple of novels. And half a dozen of textbooks! (Unfortunately, those are expensive worldwide.)

All in all I’ve managed to fill three suitcases and probably one medium bagpack. Believe it or not sweaters take up a lot of space.

I’ll be back for Christmas so if there’s anything crucial that I’ve forgotten I only need to wait five months but it still feels different. I’m about to become an independent adult. Which is exciting but also rather frightening. It means being completely responsible for what I do, for my own well-being. It means being left out if I ever forget or lose my keys – which already happens way too often in Barcelona. It means deciding to go to the doctor if I’m not feeling well, or fixing things in the apartment.

Incidentally, I will also need to learn to live with someone else, someone I haven’t met yet, and from a different country. Hopefully, everything will go smooth.

On top of that I guess I’ll go through the so-called culture shock. I learned about it days after I was admitted at CU. Apparently every person that starts living in another country goes through four phases of adaptation to the cultural landscape:

  1. Feel completely in awe of the new place you are living in. Well, given that I’ll be living in New York, it will happen for sure. I mean, it’s pretty much the centre of the world in cultural terms, among others. For instance, one of my favourite living authors, David Mitchell, will give a lecture in Novemeber. This would be unthinkable in Barcelona.
  2. Honeymoon period ends and, together with the routine, you start realising that things are different, and this annoys you. Even in US and Spanish culture are relatively similar, I still think there’ll be some tensions. Maybe I’ll see life differently, maybe I’ll be not so respectful with personal space (we Spaniards greet each other by giving a kiss on each cheek), but there’ll be something. Also, I’m already scared about how pricey everything will be, especially food. I’m used to buy very cheap fresh vegetables and fruit… More importantly, the weather. In Barcelona we never ever go below 5ºC (41ºF), I cannot imagine how I’ll be able to cope with the cold!
  3. You eventually learn how to solve your problems and go through daily life without feeling that fried oreos are something very close to heresy. In other words, you just get used to your new life.
  4. According to Wikipedia there’s another stage, mastery, where apparently you’re in full control of the situation. Seems like step 3 to me.
Surprise, surprise: I’m a Whovian.

Well, tomorrow will be a busy day full of last-minute errands and trying to fit everything into the suitcases. If I’m lucky I’ll be able to bring my favourite mug without my father noticing it.