You’d think that having spent part of my growing up years on Long Island, living in Manhattan during my wild and crazy 20s, and taken dozens of trips to the city for business and pleasure, that I would know every neighborhood, sight, and attraction. But New York City has evolved – from the 1960s hopeful World’s Fair days, to the squalid 70s when Times Square housed more live sex shows and homeless crazies than tourists, to the safe and booming lovely metropolis of today.
New York City lives up to every compliment paid and every strategically-positioned selfie, as the melting pot of absolutely everything. If it exists, you can see it in New York. If you go, the energy never disappoints.
So, on my recent trek to the Big Apple for my nephew’s graduation from Columbia med school – Yay Jesse! – I discovered a new Tibetan food in a tiny hidden restaurant, the history of The High Line, and witnessed Renzo Piano’s newly-built gallery that houses the Whitney collection.
Come along and we’ll eat, walk, and feast our eyes.
Momos at Lhasa
My son Matt, who lives in the city, had found a restaurant that is reported by NPR to serve the best momos in New York. Sometimes he’d eat in, but mostly he’d get the momos to go and ride home on his bicycle with them tucked safely in his backpack. The hot and yummy meal would have cooled down to the perfect temperature, he said, on his short ride home. What are momos, I asked?
Momos are a steamed dumpling thought to originate in the Tibetan city of Lhasa, which also happens to be the name of the restaurant in Queens where we eventually ate the deliciousness. Momos are meat- , veggie-, and spice-filled, served in stacked bamboo steaming trays right from the kitchen.
On the day we went Matt ordered one full tray of 8 momos for each of us. While we waited, we smiled at the father and two tiny daughters sitting next to us. Shortly before their food arrived the father took the girls right into the kitchen to wash hands at a big utility sink, which we could see because the entire place was about 400 square feet. One-by-one he picked the girls up as they reached their hands under the big waterfall faucet. Matt told us all the patrons do this, and that he was gathering the courage to feel enough like a regular to one day walk into the kitchen and use the big sink. Since nobody but us was speaking English, Matt was sheepish because he didn’t want to inadvertently break a protocol by waltzing right in there.
Then our momos came and our attention focused away from Tibetan customs to the food at hand. Using chopsticks, we dipped momo after momo in different sweet and hot sauces, savoring every bite. Mmm, try this sauce. Oh yeah, try this one! Each momo offered three or four bites. They were humble simple food served in equally humble surroundings. The whole experience illustrates what I love about travel – that childlike discovery of the new.
Oh, and to get to Lhasa, you must first enter the cell phone store, turn sideways as you shimmy past the store’s back office hallway, and arrive at Lhasa. The experience was secretive, exclusive, and goofy all at the same time!
The year 1851 on New York’s west side saw much freight train traffic – and at the time the trains ran on tracks through town. Pedestrians were getting killed so often that the area was dubbed Death Avenue. New York Central Railroad hired men on horseback, called the West Side Cowboys to run in front of the trains, waving pedestrians out of the way.
But the problem persisted and so the railway company decided to elevate the freight trains in 1929. And now nearly 100 years later, the freight trains are all gone.
The nonprofit Friends of the High Line was formed by Joshua David and Robert Hammond, area residents, and the group eventually made the walkable, beautiful High Line. Close to 5 million people walk its splendid mile and a half up-in-the-air path along the city’s west side. Have you been?
The New Whitney
Renzo Piano is one of my favorite architects. His projects are known for interesting roof lines, sometimes transparent or glassed. He also likes to integrate outside/inside spaces.
So when I heard he had designed the new galleries that would house the Whitney Collection, I was anxious to get over to it.
(As an aside, I love modern architecture to an obsession. I simply HAD to get to Bilbao, Spain after the 1997 completion of Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum there. I was absolutely breathless upon first laying eyes on the real deal in 2010, and here’s the spectacular shot Conrad took at dusk from across the Nervión River – one of my all-time favorite photos):
Back to the Whitney.
The new lovely structure crops out of the 20 square blocks of the far west side’s Meatpacking District. True to form, Piano produced some wonderful outdoor spaces high above the street and as extensions of the indoor galleries.
I like the building. I think it integrates well with the surroundings, shows off textures and graphic blocks to the street side, and as an added bonus, is at the extreme southern tip of The High Line, creating many tourist options. Tucked between the museum’s side and the stairs to The High Line are picturesque sidewalk cafes.
What have you discovered in fabulous New York City?