Categories
Culture

The Not-So-Usual Streets of New York

Where a Brief Walk in a Random Street is Worth Countless Movie Scenes

The intersection of Broadway and Prince Street hosts an organized chaos of pedestrians seemingly in a rush: A pink-haired woman with oversized red glasses navigates on her electric wheelchair, a small dog trying to keep up the pace; twins in strollers push through with great difficulty, and a couple refusing to unclasp hands press into the overbearing crowd. Their impatience skyrockets as yet another set of cabs approach along a touristy Big Bus. 

Once the lights switch in their favor, the New Yorkers hustle to the opposite side of the street where a halal stand offers chicken biryani and shish kebabs, with a strong smell that draws some in and others out. 

The white-bearded vendor in a navy apron keeps the window of his stall slightly open to avoid discouraging customers from ordering, but keeps it closed just the right amount to stay warm and read his newspaper without distraction. Making sure to check the crowd every now and then, he waves at a gentleman whose outfit matches the yellow and blue umbrellas of the cart. 

Seven steps ahead of the stand is a street artist showcasing his paintings on subway maps, accompanied by rap music so loud, it attracts a crowd. Somewhere between his speaker and his art equipment, the artist begins to dance and so do his potential customers and passerby. 

 The corner becomes a party spot as a man in a designer outfit and a purple-haired friend are joined by a little girl with a shiny pink bag. 

A man in cargo pants and a hoodie purchases two posters from the artist, whose words: “Thanks again man, appreciate it!” echo along the ongoing rap ‘concert.’

Twenty steps and fifty pedestrians later, a professional photo shoot is staged. A supermodel in black vinyl pants and a matching crop top, holding a metallic clutch poses for a photographer in an all-white outfit lying on the dirty sidewalk to capture the perfect shot.

The photographer keeps guiding the model to “tilt her head a little bit more to the left, and gaze at anywhere but the camera.” 

Two girls pass through the fashion scene as they try to figure out which direction Google Maps is pointing towards, and right behind them are a father and a son enjoying the last bit of their ice cream. 

A few seconds later arrives a man with long white hair and a matching beard, reaches the trash can to collect plastic bottles, and looks deep inside the can once again to make sure he has all. He slowly heads back on the road with two bags overfilled with garbage…

One random place and one incomplete hour yet countless faces and numerous stories unite to unravel the harmony behind the chaotic image of the city.

Categories
food

Craving Chocolate? I Got You Covered!

Wherever you are reading this from and whenever you are reading it, there is at least one commonality: a shared demand for satisfying our ‘chocolate-tooth’ and let’s face it, what better place to do so than New York?

NYC is known for its myriad alternatives for everything and desserts that specialize in a chocolate overload certainly is no exception; whatever it is your sweet tooth wants to indulge in, ‘the’ city definitely has locations to offer it. In order to make it easier for you to spot exactly where you want to go, below are three of my favorite spots for special chocolate cures. These by no means are the only options but rather the ones that I have had the pleasure of exploring thus far in my journey of Becoming A New Yorker so stay tuned for more recommendations to come!

  • Levain Bakery: A New York classic that probably enriches your Instagram search feed with convenient locations at 167 W 74th St and 1484 Third Ave, Levain is accessible enough to satisfy your most insatiable cravings, yet distant enough to not become a daily habit that will eventually destroy your health. When you get an ideal dose of Levain products in your life, your routine surely will get more exciting and your seratonin levels will immediately skyrocket.           fullsizeoutput_3ed.jpeg                               (@Levain Bakery, NYC)

What Should You Eat?

Whether you are a cookie monster or just an outsider to the concept, you MUST try out Levain’s prominent cookies which come in 4 options including but not limited to Chocolate Chip Walnut and Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip flavors, the latter being my absolute favorite. The names may sound rather ordinary but I promise the taste is by no means close to ‘ordinary.’

Another amazing item in their menu is their blueberry muffin which can be paired to perfection with an Iced latte for breakfast!

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  • Blue Stripes Cacao Shop: A less popular dessert spot that bears great potential of becoming a true cholate lover’s best friend. Conveniently located at 28 E 13th St both for Parsons and NYU students, this coffe-shop exteriored chocolate-everything provider is attractive mainly for the wide and creative selection of products it offers.

What Should You Eat/ Drink?

Unlike me, you might want to switch your regular choice of Iced Americano because Blue Stripes offers Chocolate Clouds which happen to be drinkable chocolate mousse on tap! In case that didnt convince you already, you are given the options of ‘molten milk, Nutella foam, and ruby floral’ to choose from. If you claim to have an adventurous personality and are up for a challenge, their menu has weird items ranging from Cacoa Froot Beer to Spinach Bowl with Cacao Fruit.

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(@Blue Stripes, NYC)

If you are just up for a fulfilling chocolate indulgence, however, I strongly recommend their ‘Famous Chocolate Pizza’ or ‘Build Your Own Turtle Kreamz’ option where you choose a base of soft serve chocolate ganache or vanilla bean and add toppings including but not limited to chocolate shells, salted caramel, berries, and honey peanuts. They have a lot to offer so you are encouraged to check it out in person.

  • Max Brenner: No matter how intense your chocolate cravings get, Max Brenner, located at 841 Broadway is where you are guarenteed to find a solution. This dessert spot doubles as an actual restaurant so you might want to reserve a table in advance to avoid any waiting durations. *Disclaimer: Their portions are giant and desserts are not the slightest bit of healthy so make sure this addictive location doesn’t become more than a rare cause for treating yourself.*

What Should You Eat?

Now, to the fun part, my favorite menu item is the Chocolate Chip Cookie Skillet topped with vanilla ice cream. Their signature items include sweet pizza options such as Cookies and Cream, Brownie, and Peanut Butter, with toppings like toasted marshmellows. You can also opt for their ‘Chocolate Mess to Share’ which is a chocolate-y surprise for those who want an unordinary and exciting treat. For classic advocates, my recommendation would either be the ‘Chocolate Fondue for Two’ or the Belgian Waffle which is tied with the ‘Banana Praline Crepes.’ Pro Hack: Be extra and order a chocolate syringe which will completely change your perspective towards vaccination.

I hope these chocolate-intensive dessert shop recommendations will help resolve your next sweet tooth craving! More advice is yet to come as I continue my process of Becoming A New Yorker:)

Until then, stay happy and enjoy chocolate!

Best, Yaprak

Categories
Uncategorized

Buddha Bodai and Vandal NYC

Welcome, Dear Reader, to another volume of unexpected events on my road of Becoming A New Yorker!

Normally, I am not that open to trying out different food but this Friday one of my Chinese friends who lives in Brooklyn came to Manhattan and took me to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. I am a pescatarian — I only consume fish, not meat so the one we went to was a vegetarian restaurant called Buddha Bodai. 

            The benchmark of my 30 minute-walk from campus was about halfway as the diverse New Yorker population suddenly transformed into a Chinese-only atmosphere as I felt I discovered a hidden Chinatown near Soho. Everything written in Chinese, reinforcing their culture, yet taking five steps back meant re-entering New York’s busiest neighborhoods. I embraced my culture shock and arrived at the destination. 

            The menu was in English yet somehow, I had no idea what half of the words meant so I let her decide what we ate. Small plates appeared one after the other and before we knew it, the table was set excessively with food I had no idea consisted of which ingredients. 

IMG_7973           We had vegetarian dumplings, sesame rice, and lots of other traditional items whose names still remain as mysteries to me. Some of them tasted interestingly good and some not so much, half the table I didn’t even get to try because she ordered too much. 

            The taste is not the point here, the interesting road I had to take to arrive there and the conversation I got to have with an Americanized Chinese student is what really matters. These are the special opportunities that make New York, New York. How the entire atmosphere can change with a blink of the eye and how you can engage with people from all backgrounds, always widening your horizons. 

            Another hit event of the week was meeting friends at Vandal, a hit NYC restaurant/bar known for its interesting interior style and social media renowned customer profile. 

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            The vibe you get when you first enter is that the place has been created for Instagram and only for Instagram. The entrance immediately takes you into a room covered in an attractive black and white illusion wallpaper where fifteen women with the same mini, shiny dress and high heels fighting over whose turn it is to get a ‘cute’ picture. 

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            Once you get your Insta-worthy shot, you enter the restaurant through a door covered in the same wallpaper as if you are entering a Wonderland of some sort. The seating area, in my opinion, is not a must-see, it is barely interesting. The customers however, are worth staring at because some really dress up in unconventional ways— so much so you either feel inspired to renovate your closet or to intensify your inner minimalist because seeing how extra they are makes you appreciate the less is more mentality.

            Now, let’s dive into the fun part: Food! For 21+’ers, Vandal offers a wide selection of refreshing cocktails but the minors that we are, settled for non-alcoholic Mojitos. The menu was fine, mostly containing of items that are meant to be shared. We challenged the norm and ordered food separately but the sharing plates of nearby tables seemed to be worth a shot. I ate grilled Branzino (a fancy fish type) and both of my friends had the hyped Prime Skirt Steak of Vandal. Was it the best fish of my life? Have my friends not had better steak before? Would I go again to have it? NO. But the overall atmosphere was definitely worth experiencing but Vandal didn’t appeal to the stomach as much as it did to the eye. 

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            To me, Vandal is nothing more than just another overhyped Instagram destination. I am glad that I have seen it but I do not feel the need to pay a second visit. I took my photo (which took over 45 minutes) and I felt as my mission was accomplished. All in all, neither Buddha Bodai nor Vandal had great food to satisfy my taste but if there is one thing better than great food, it is great time with great people. I have met both my lunch gal and one of my dinner partners in person on that they for the very first time. The power of New York is that it opens doors that are so spontaneous that new opportunities become your best friends and I am so grateful that I have taken the incentive to spend my day full of unexpected twists!

 Best Wishes,

Yaprak

Categories
Uncategorized

Artechouse, NY (09.16.2019)

Good morning, Bon Appétit, Good night, from me to you, whenever and wherever you are reading this today!

Every single day at New York is a new, unexpected experience. You would imagine for me to run from one class to another, spend nights sleeplessly studying at the library, drink ten shots of espresso daily, and barely find time to leave for myself. Well, there is all that, except of course, I try to limit my caffeine consumption to four shots a day. Now stop for a second and imagine having hundreds of pages to read and multiple essays assigned for tomorrow in alignment with the midterm season so subtly yet hastily approaching.

            This scenario sounds too exhausting, depressive even. Thankfully, that is not the case — at least it partially is. Classes begun full paced right after the orientation-intended Welcome Week at NYU and I have been assigned new tasks on a daily basis yet somehow, I am not complaining. Well the reason is quite obvious: I am in New York! Every day is a new adventure and the complex simplicity of the unknown factor that is instilled in my daily ‘routine’ fuels me to be hyped at all times.

            Let it be encountering Nina Dobrev or Alec Baldwin on your way to class, having exclusive access to the screening of The Politician with cast members before its stream on Netflix, sitting next to famous Youtubers, photographers, actresses, singers, and even princes at class, randomly winning free Broadway tickets, going to a different concert every day, cheering loudly for Yankees on a Wednesday night even though you do not speak fluent baseball, or simply making friends over common interests like having purple hair, the city has a lot to offer.

@ArtechouseNYC (09.16.2019)

            This week’s personal highlight was a temporary immersive exhibition held at Artechouse, a leading contemporary digital art space located in Chelsea Market. The digital exhibition on display at this time was called “Machine Hallucination.” Being Turkish myself, the fact that the media artist and director of the art installation being Refik Anadol, also of Turkish descent, has sure been an incentive towards my interest. However, the work of the established media artist is guaranteed to attract and appeal to an audience that exceeds the borders of a particular nation.

            I entered the space fully unaware of what to expect and perhaps it was for the best. In its simplest form, you enter a room surrounded with and consisting only of large screens displaying high quality images. As you take a seat on the floor, you find yourself being a part of an illusionary movement. As colors, shapes, and concepts shift seemingly spontaneously yet indeed quite purposefully, you enter a state of becoming both delusional and entertained. You have complex emotions because following the constant movement is too demanding a task yet you find your curiosity surpassing that tiresome resistance and you can’t help but willingly keep up with the pace.

            Would I recommend this experience? Absolutely yes — Assuming you are a typical 21st century individual with a decent interest in what your Instagram feed looks like. This exhibition provides you various alternative backgrounds to get creative and make your next Instagram post stand out. You are literally meant to stay inside the same room for 45 minutes so chances are high that you will capture an artsy pic that doesn’t even need any editing!

            All that said, I wouldn’t worry if I were to miss this particular exhibition because this is New York and a similar or even slightly improvised version of it will likely be offered soon.

            My recommended time frame for this event would be after 7 PM so that you can get out of school or work, bring your A-game on for putting together an Instagrammable outfit and just fully immerse in the experience. Just to give you a heads up if you are interested in this digital art reflection: you will find yourself feeling dizzy, almost nauseous towards the end of the duration. A smart thing to do could be to leave not as it actually ends but as you get all your pictures taken so avoid such unpleasing distress.

            The exit door of the exhibit will magically open to Chelsea Market with more food options than you can ask for. Considering your inevitable need and desire for choosing the most Insta-worthy picture your friends have taken inside, you will have to be seated. If you are lucky enough to find a real seat to grab any food, good for you — If, and unfortunately more likely, there is no seat available for your friend party of five, do as I did with two of my older accompanies: find yourself a nearby restaurant! No matter how late it is, there is always Joe’s Pizza to count on after all.

My accompany for the exhibition, Melis Al (09.16.2019)

            We went to Serafina for some Italian food indulgence and the atmosphere matched our mood as we were neither dressed too streety nor too swelly. At the end of the day, this experience sure was a way of spending a Monday that is specific to New York and the best part is that it wasn’t planned months ago, contrary to how such events are schemed way prior to the dates. This freedom of exploration and living Mondays entertaining at an extent indistinguishable from that of a Monday is just this week’s example of how Becoming a New Yorker is a magical process worth sharing.

Till next time’

Sincerely, Yaprak