Thursday, July 21, 2016

3 July 2015: Shake Shack in Madison Square Park

3 Jul 2015 (Fri):

Eating out in New York City is an endeavour with countless options. I had wanted to eat something that is fairly affordable and yet will make my dining time in New York memorable enough. In order to narrow down to noteworthy options, I referred to Pocket Rough Guide: New York City written and researched by Martin Dunford, Stephen Keeling and Andrew Rosenberg.

One of the places that was recommended in the Eating Out options was Shake Shack for its price and outdoor seating setting. Coincidentally, the day before I had visited Shake Shack, one of my new-found friends at the hostel told me he had a meal at Shake Shack.

Shake Shack is very popular. It is in fact a phenomenon! At non-lunch hours, around 3 p.m., there was already a long queue at Shake Shack. I had waited more than half-an-hour before it was my turn to have my order taken. It took another 15 minutes at least to wait for my order to be ready.

Located in Madison Square Park, I love its outdoor setting and the surrounding landscaped park. I later found out that in 2004, a bid was won to open a permanent kiosk in the Madison Square Park. Shake Shack has the company of beautiful trees, a lovely fountain and flowers. In some ways, I think such a natural yet landscaped location makes eating burgers healthier and less sinful.

Shake Shack is known for its grilled burgers and frozen custard shakes. I ordered a single Shack Stack, a Concrete Single Shack Attack and French Fries. 

The Shack Stack is a cross between a Cheeseburger and a 'Shroom Burger with crisp-fried portabello mushroom. This delicious burger is topped with lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce. Each Shack Stack costs USD$9.49. I particularly like the crisp-fried portabello mushroom that was sandwiched in the Shack Stack. The burger bun was fresh and has a soft yet just right texture. The cheese went just right with the rest of the burger. Overall, a tasty burger. No wonder people are willing to queue at Shake Shack for its grilled burgers.

Shack Stack.

The Concrete Single Shack Attack (single) is one of the options of frozen custard that is available at Shake Shack. The ingredients in this dense frozen custard ice cream blended at high speed with mix-ins include: chocolate custard, fudge sauce, chocolate truffle cookie dough and Mast Brothers Shake Shack dark chocolate chunks, topped with chocolate sprinkles. It tasted rich and creamy, and fresh! Shake Shack promises that the vanilla and chocolate recipes in its frozen custard items are spun fresh daily with milk from dairy farmers who pledge not to use artificial growth hormones. At USD$4.50, I think it is value-for-money.

Concrete Single Shack Attack.

Service was considered good given that the Shake Shack outlet in Madison Square Park had a long queue and did not charge service charge. There was a member of the staff who went around serving iced cold (water) and passing out menus to customers who were queuing in the line.

The weather was good on the day of my visit and there was enough shade provided by the trees. I would have to say that I enjoy eating outdoors at seated dining areas. Although Shake Shack is not unique to New York City, it was a unique experience eating delicious grilled burgers and drinking frozen custard right in a park. Furthermore, the Madison Square Park was where Shake Shack was first started.

My learning point: Eating is pleasurable not just because of the quality of the food. The environment also matters. A relaxing and pleasant environment enhances the dining experience.

Shake Shack
Madison Square Park
near Madison Ave and E 23rd Street

Subway: N, R, W to 23rd Street
Operating hours: Daily, 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

3 July 2015: Top of the Rock Observation Deck and Rockefeller Centre

3 Jul 2015: My gut instinct told me that this shall be the place to visit: The Top of the Rock Observation Deck.

The Top of the Rock Observation Deck is said to be one of the obvious places to go for a panoramic views of New York. Perhaps it was because it was my first time in New York, so I willing paid USD$45 for access to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck as well as a tour of Rockefeller Centre.

The Top of the Rock Observation Deck is located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza at 50th St, at the top of the GE Building. It offers a good view of the Empire State Building, New York City's Central Park and more. I spent a good half-an-hour there at least. Up at the observation deck, I felt I had a good overview of the New York City from a good vantage point.

The Rockefeller Center was conceived more than 100 years ago by John D. Rockefeller Jr. as a "city within a city." "It has been a hub of remarkable art, style and entertainment."

For me, the tour of the Rockefeller Center was more interesting than the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. The Rockefeller Center showcases a remarkable collection of sculptures and art deco motifs.

When I was reading about the Rockefeller Center, I learnt that the American Institute of Architects declared Rockefeller Center the second most significant piece of architecture in America. It is indeed a wonderful piece of architecture and I felt thankful that I had visited it.

During the tour, our guide gave us an overview to the history of Rockefeller Center. He also highlighted to us the various works of art within the Rockefeller Center. I was glad that I had made time to attend this tour. It seemed that a visit to New York City would have been incomplete if I had missed the Rockefeller Center.

I would like to thank the guide, Jonathan, for an enriching guided tour of the Rockefeller Center.

My learning point: Give people something better!
This was what I had derived from a quote that was associated with the Rockefeller Center:
"Giving people what they want is fundamentally and disastrously wrong. The people don't know what they want... [Give] them something better." - Samuel Rothapfel, founder of the Palace Theater chain, 1914.

Rockefeller Center
From Fifth to Sixth Aves between W 48th and W 51st sts.
Subway: B, D, F, V to 47-50th St

Friday, July 15, 2016

3 Jul 2015: A short visit to The Cathedral Church of St John the Divine

3 Jul 2015:

This is a post that is overdued. While I was in New York City last year, I stayed for a few nights at HI New York City. In the morning of 3 Jul 2015, I took a stroll about the neighbourhood near the hostel and decided to spend some time visiting The Cathedral Church of St John the Divine.

The Cathedral is fairly impressive in its size. I learnt that it is more than 120 years old and reminds unfinished. It was a year later after my visit that I learnt that the cathedral is the largest cathedral in the world!

I was thankful that during my visit to the cathedral, a choir was singing. I don't know if the choir was rehearsing yet I love the sounds of the choir filling the spaces of the cathedral. A morning adventure to explore the neighbourhood had brought me to a global landmark.

My learning point: Be open to new experiences. Pleasant surprises can happen.

The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine
1047 Amsterdam Avenue
112th Street
New York
NY 10025

Saturday, July 09, 2016

3 July 2015: Absolute Bagels and Lox

Life offers pleasant surprises when we take the step out to explore what it has to offer. I was on my way to visit the Cathedral of St John The Divine that was about ten blocks away from the hostel that I was staying in. On the way there, I noticed a queue waiting to buy bagels.

I took a moment to figure out what had drawn people to queue for bagels outside the shop named Absolute Review. There were reviews that Absolute Bagels has the best bagels in Manhattan. I suppose the beeline was the testament.

I ordered a bagel with Lox Spread for USD$3.95. I learnt that Lox Spread is essentially cream cheese and lox (salmon cured in brine). The bagel has a chewy and satisfying texture and the Lox Spread tasted fresh and flavoursome. There was a generous spread of Lox Spread on the bagel. The bagel with Lox Spread was worth the queue. The best bagel that I ever had yet.

Learning point: Life offers pleasant surprises. It helps to keep ourselves opened to what are around us. We may find something that we will like!

Absolute Bagels
2788 Broadway, between 107th and 108th Streets
Subway: #1 to 110th St - Cathedral Parkway
Tel: (212) 932-2052

Operating hours: Daily, 6 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Friday, July 08, 2016

3 Jul 2015: Plowshares Coffee Bloomingdale

3 Jul 2015: I received a recommendations to check out the Plowshares Coffee Bloomingdale cafe near the international hostel, HI New York, that I was staying in. I felt thankful for the recommendations. The espresso from the cafe tasted balanced and is a lovely treat for the day.

If you are near the area and want a cup of espresso, check this cafe out!

Plowshares Coffee Bloomingdale
2730 Broadway
New York
NY 10025
United States