The main attraction for Day 4 was a trip to the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino – but more on that in a little bit. To kick start the day, we drove to Glendale and stopped over at Porto’s Bakery & Cafe. This not-so-little bakery came to us highly recommended by a couple of our friends, so of course, we had to check it out. Porto’s is known for their cheese rolls and potato ball, neither of which I have ever tasted. Needless to say, my taste buds were excited. They weren’t disappointed. The potato balls were quite filling, a bit dense, and very tasty. The cheese rolls were just downright amazingly good. I’m writing this post over a week since our visit to Porto’s and I can still taste those amazing cheese rolls. I want some right now.
After Porto’s we made a pit stop at Old Pasadena Town. This is a neat little place filled with a lot of big and small name shops. We of course had to stop over at Urban Outfitters (I so wish that we had one in Hawaii). Michelle loves to browse the trinkets whenever we stop at Urban Outfitters and I, of course, love to check out the clothes – T-Shirts specifically. Another stop we made while checking out Old Pasadena Town was Dots Cupcakes. We were both a little hesitant due to our lackluster Sprinkles experience a few days prior. Luckily, we had nothing to worry about. The cupcakes at Dots were amazingly good. So much better than Sprinkles and *possibly* a little better than Butter Lane in New York City. They looked amazing and tasted just as good as they looked. I had the Chocolate Mint and let me tell you, it’s to die for! Another plus about Dots is that you don’t need to wait in a ridiculous line like that found at Sprinkles in Beverly Hills. If you ever find yourself in Old Pasadena Town then be sure to stop by Dots Cupcakes.
With all that food in our tummies, Huntington Botanical Gardens was our next stop. I’ve been to a couple of Botanical Gardens, across a few states, and I have to say that this was probably the most impressive one thus far. It was beautiful. It was picturesque. It was serene. And it was huge! It was so big that we had to narrow our focus on a couple of specific parts of the garden. We decided to focus on the Japanese and Chinese Gardens. The view that you initially get when you reach the Japanese Garden is just stunning and totally worth the visit, in my opinion. I could imagine myself just coming here with a book and getting lost in my own imagination. There are a ton of photo taking opportunities, so when you visit, make sure that your camera’s memory card is free of space because you’ll definitely want to take a lot of photos. I’d highly recommend a visit here.
By the time that we had left the botanical gardens, the sun had just about set. We, however, weren’t done for the day. We decided to make a trip back to Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Why? Well, the first time that I was there, I spotted Godzilla’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I failed to take a photo, though, because of the crazy foot traffic. I regretted that decision and was able to convince Michelle to make a stop there once again. And yes, I found Godzilla’s star the second time around and I was sure to get my photo!
For dinner we were both craving some Italian food. Michelle spotted this one restaurant during a previous trip to Melrose Avenue called Osteria La Buca. The Yelp ratings were favorable so we decided to give it a shot and make it our dinner destination. Michelle had the linguini di mare and I went with the tagliatelle bolognese. One thing that’s great about Osteria La Buca is that they make all of their pasta in house. Whenever something is made by hand and from scratch, you can really tell the difference. I enjoyed Osteria La Buca and I imagine that If I lived in the area, I would make this restaurant one of the places that I’d dine at on a regular basis.
Dreams are a funny thing. For some people, dreams tend unravel quickly. For others, dreams take some time and come true at the most surprising of moments. For Carlos J. EasyBake, Oven Fresh Dreams is a dream in progress that was born out of his passion for baking, tattoos and T-Shirts. Oven Fresh Dreams was inspired by clothing lines such as Paul Frank, Johnny Cupcakes, and Benny Gold, with the hope of intertwining the t-shirt, tattoo, and baking community.
I had the opportunity to meet up with Mr. EasyBaske on a recent visit to New York and he invited me to meet up with him at the bakery that he works at. We chatted about out common interests: T-Shirts and food! It was awesome to learn that Carlos was a foodie like myself and I had a great time picking Carlos’ brain on all things food and restaurant related in NYC. We even had a chance to stop by a few of his recommended dining spots, and of course, they were amazing experiences.Â The one thing that I did get from my visit with Carlos was that his passion for the things that he loves (baking, tees, family) is 100% pure.
The big dream for Carlos is to one day open his own bake shop, and fuse T-Shirt and skate culture into it. The Seal of Dreams T-Shirt is an indication that Mr. EasyBake is taking the right steps into the right direction. He has done a great job at branding Oven Fresh Dreams so far (he has over 1600 fans on Facebook) and has made connections with some amazing people within the T-Shirt community, like Nicolo Nimor of Nick Automatic, who designed one of his first collaboration tees.
“This shirt represents the dreams we carry with us every day. Oven Fresh Dreams is much more than a baking, lifestyle company. It’s a movement that embraces individuality & achieving anything we put our minds to. By wearing this shirt you’re letting everyone know you’re not afraid to take risks because you’re a dreamer!”
NYC Neighborhoods Visited: Midtown West, Lower East Side, East Village, Theater District, Flatiron
Today was our last full day in New York City and it started early. very early. How early? 5 am early. Now you might be wondering what would compel two people already lacking in much needed sleep to wake up to 5 am. The answer: Foursquare. I was determined to earn my Today Show Newbie badge and the only way to do that was to be at Studio 1A in Rockefeller Center before 6 am. Possible? Absolutely! Out hotel is situated about a 5 minute walk away from Studio 1A and so quickly getting there was not an issue. The alarm went off at 5 am sharp, but we both hit the snooze the button. It went off again at 5:30 am, we jumped out of bed, quickly got ready and was out of the door by 5:35 am. By 5:40 we were at Studio 1A and I was able to score my Foursquare Today Show Newbie Badge! I was excited and tired as hell. And so instead of standing in line with the crazy Today Show fans, we decided to head back to the hotel to snooze off again. Hah!
After a slight blog disaster (it lasted a good 30 minutes before the problems were resolved), we decided to head back to the Lower East Side to experience the one and only Katz’s Delicatessen. Located on East Houston St., Katz is famous for their popular Pastrami on Rye Sandwich.
If you’ve seen When Harry Met Sally then you’re already familiar with Katz’s Delicatessen. It’s the place where Sally had the greatest orgasm ever. They even have a sign situated right above the table in which the infamous scene took place. Part of the Katz experience is simply getting your food. They have a weird system of ordering, but if it works for them, why change it? When you first enter Katz, you are given a ticket. You are then directed to one of 4 different areas of the counter. Depending on what you want, that is the area of the counter that you go to. We wanted our Pastrami Sandwich, and after initially go to the wrong line (the breakfast line), we headed to the sandwich line. Now, there was literally no one there when we went since we stopped by shortly after opening, but apparently, it gets super busy at peak lunch times. Our sandwich server was a little grumpy, but he did offer us samples of the meats while he made our sandwiches. The samples were so delicious and was a great prelude to the real deal. I ordered the classic Pastrami on Rye and Michelle had the Reuben on Rye. After you get your sandwich, you then go to one of the drink lines to grab your beverage. There’s one section for canned sodas, and another line for everything else. At each counter station, you give the helper your ticket and they serially tally your total charges. Interestingly, you don’t pay until after you finish eating. You bring your ticket to the front of the restaurant and pay the cashier before heading out the door full and satisfied.
The pastrami for me was the best I have ever had. I’m used to wet pastrami sandwiches, this was hardly that. The meat was tender, but it was not dripping like crazy with oil as I ate it. Also, the serving was huge (for me at least). I asked the server if the sandwich was big (we considered sharing one). Then, he flashed me the piece of bread he was using and then said “no, it’s not.” And that is why we ordered two separate sandwiches. But when we received our sandwiches (it took about 5 minutes for him to cut the meat and prep it) we noticed that they really do pack on the meat. If it’s a big and succulent pastrami that you’re looking for, then be sure to check out Katz’s Delicatessen. Meg Ryan would approve.
Though we couldn’t even finish our sandwiches from Katz’s, we headed down to Butter Lane for cupcakes, as suggested by Carlos of Oven Fresh Dreams. We arrived there right before they opened. Upon entering, we were greeted by trays of mouthwatering cupcakes. I decided on the Elvis (banana cupcake with a peanut butter frosting, topped with marshmallows) and Michelle had the Marco (chocolate cupcake with a maple pecan frosting). The cupcakes was so light and moist and the frosting was not overly sweet. One of the best cupcakes we’ve ever had!
Hey, that’s me sporting Origami Pigeon in front of Butter Lane! Be on the look out for this shirt to be featured in an upcoming episode of Co-Tee TV (I should know, because it’s already been filmed).
We then caught the subway back up to 5th avenue to check out the NBA Store. I’m a big basketball fan, but the prices were just a little too outrageous for me. Once we did our walk through, we headed back to Hotel Mela for some much needed rest and some shut eye. After 5 days in New York City, we were both very exhausted.
Feeling rejuvenated, we caught the subway back to the Lower East Side to pay a visit to Brian Shevlin of Year of the T-Shirt fame. He’s the guy that’s been wearing a different T-Shirt ever day in 2010 and posting his tees on his site on a daily basis. Brian runs a little art collective called Con Artist, with Con standing for Connected. It’s a place where artists can congregate, socialize, design and sell their goods and artwork. Con Artist is a little hole in the ground, literally. Two black doors are swung open from the sidewalk of Ludlow Street, inviting guests to come and take a peek at the artwork, as well as the vintage and new tees. Brian gave me a tour of his little art abode and I was thoroughly impressed and blown away by their quality of work. If you’re in the Lower East Side and you want to be inspired, then be sure to stop by Con Artist – tell Brian that Coty sent you!
Brian let me take a TON of photos of his gallery and workshop, and I will be posting those in the coming days in a separate post, so be sure to be on the lookout for that.
A few blocks away from Con Artist was our dinner destination. Boca Chica was highly recommended by Carlos of Oven Fresh Dreams (remember, we stopped by and visited him the day before) and so we just had to check it out. Tired of Italian, we were excited to tingle out tongues with Latin American cuisine. Carlos was right, Boca Chica was an awesome food experience – it was so good! We started off with plantain chips and bean dip (on the house) and Alitas De Pollo (grilled spicy, honeyed wings). The honeywings were so tender and spiced just right. For the entrees, Michelle had the Arroz Con Camarones (shrimp and yellow rice) and I had the Pollo Havanero (grilled chicken with almond, parsley, garlic sauce). The Pollo Havanero was delicious, and the sauce that was smothered over the chicken was perfect.
After dinner we made a pit stop at Trader Joe’s to pick up a few more goodies to bring back home and then we made one last ditch effort to taste the famous sticky buns from Amy’s Bread. When we visited Carlos at the Amy’s Bread on Bleaker St., they were unfortunately out of sticky buns. Lucky for us, they had one sticky bun left at Amy’s Bread in the Hell’s Kitchen area.
With our sticky bun curiosity put aside, we headed back to our hotel to pack up our things for our flight back to Honolulu, Hawaii. We made one last trip to the Shake Shack on 44th for a midnight snack. The Shack Burger hit the spot and was the perfect ending to a delightful and food-filled NYC experience.
In 5 days we did so much, experienced so much and tasted so much. The only thing left to wonder about New York is when we will be back. I Heart New York, that’s for sure.
NYC Neighborhoods Visited: SOHO, Nolita, Theater District, West Village, and Flatiron.
We started our day off with a late morning subway ride to SOHO for lunch at the famous Lombardi’s Pizzeria. They are renown for being America’s first pizzeria and since we had a taste of Grimaldi’s the day before, we just had to tickle our tongues with a taste of Lombardi’s. Located on the corner of Mott St. and Mulberry St., we were surprised when we saw that Lombardi’s had no line. We had surely thought that this famed pizzeria would have a line shooting out of its door, considering that we waited nearly an hour before we were able to get a seat inside of Grimaldi’s yesterday. In any case, we blew off the no line to the face that we were there just little after 30 minutes from opening. And anyway, we were both hungry for good pizza so no line was a good thing!
I’ve argued with a bunch of hardcore Lombardi’s fan about the superiority of Grimaldi’s, but with no firsthand experience of Lombardi’s slice, I was a bit biased. We ordered the same pizza as we did at Lombardi’s (pepperoni, sausage, and mushrooms) but this time we also added spinach. Like Grimaldi’s you pay a bay price for either a small or a large and then pay extra for toppings of your choice.
So which was better, Grimaldi’s or Lombardi’s? My first thought was that they were very similar to one another. So similar that I could not choose a favorite between the two. But after a few minutes and my second slice, I had found a clear favorite. Grimaldi’s is indeed my favorite pizzeria in the state of New York. Hands down. The pepperoni had a spicier kick, the sausage was tastier and the cheese, oh my goodness the cheese at Grimaldi’s was thicker, cheesier, and there was just more of it overall. And let’s face it, more cheese is always a good thing. Plus, you’re eating a pie under the Brooklyn Bridge – that’s pretty freakin’ awesome. If you’re in New York, and have to choose between the two, I’d recommend that you cross the Brooklyn Bridge and have a taste of New York’s best, Grimaldi’s Pizzeria.
After Grimaldi’s, we crossed the street and had a taste of Rice to Riches, a rice pudding specialty shop. The first thing you’ll notice is the colorful and chic decor and then you’ll notice the clever and witty sayings throughout the shop poking fun at skinny people. Rice to Riches is definitely not a place for the carbohydrate conscious. Both Michelle and I ordered a small serving each, I had the Sex, Drugs, andl Rocky Road topped with mixed nuts and Michelle had the Chocolate Chip Flirt. First note, the serving sizes are huge and a small is definitely big enough for two. The pudding is very rich and is perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth.
We then walked down Stage St. and stopped by American Apparel. They were having a sidewalk sale and we were able to pick up some great items for $8 a piece. I grabbed a couple of Raglans – yay!
A quick subway ride to 9th, between 15th and 16th Streets, and we were at Chelsea Market – home of the Food Network. On the bottom floor of this large building is a market that is scattered with a variety of different restaurants and open markets. I even scored a free gingerbread cookie by checking in at One Lucky Duck on Foursquare. Have I told you how much I love Foursquare?
Once we had our fill of Chelsea Market, we explored the Chelsea area quite a bit. And then we made our way to Jon Wye’s flagship shop on 47 W 20th Street. If you read this blog on a regular basis, then you know who Jon Wye is, since I have featured him multiple times on the blog and on Co-Tee TV. Jon Wye recently opened up a brick and mortar store. The shop is actually located inside of an old church that has been transformed into a three story market and gallery known as The Limelight. Unfortunately, Jon wasn’t in – he’s busy in DC working hard on his products at his factory. I did, however, have a chance to explore this shop and was thoroughly impressed by what I saw. I’ll be posting more photos of his shop in a separate post so be sure to check back for that.
The Museum of Sex on 5th Avenue was our next detonation. The tickets are priced at $17 a piece, however, I was a but underwhelmed. I expected more sex. Don’t get me wrong, the museum features three floors of sex exhibitions, but none really shocked or offended me. I was expecting to be shocked and offended. Not really. They currently features five difference exhibitions, Sex Lives of Animals and Rubbers were the the ones that I found to be the most interesting. Who knew a rhino’s dick was so huge.
By this time it was about 4pm, so we decided to head back to Times Square. Before heading to our hotel we made stops at the Hershey’s store and the M&M’s store. Both were a bit meh for me and just too crowded to even browse the products. I wanted some dark chocolate Kit Kats but was not willing to stand in line for it. If you’re in New York and have to choose between the two, then I’d suggest passing on Hershey’s (the store floor is small and crowded, and you can find most of the products at your local store anyway) and instead hit up the M&M store (it’s 3 floors big and the wall of M&M’s is impressive).
After a short pit stop at our hotel to freshen up, we hit the subway once again toward West Village to pay a visit to Carlos, also known in the T-Shirt universe for his baking and lifestyle collective, Oven Fresh Dreams. Carlos has released some limited edition tees in collaboration with Nicolo Nimor of Nick Automatic and Greg Abbott. Carlos invited us to stop by the bakery that he works at, Amy’s Bread. What’s awesome about this is that I actually had this planned on my itinerary, based on some suggestions that I had read prior to his invitation. How serendipitous of him to invite us there! He hooked us up with some excellent brownies and we even chatted a bit about NYC and the food scene. Not surprisingly, Carlos is a foodie, much like myself and Michelle! Cool dude. Support his brand Oven Fresh Dreams and if you’re ever in NYC, pay a visit to Amy’s Bread to treat yourself to something special.
The West Village area is filled with an amazing assortment of small restaurants. Carlos suggested one called Little Havana, so that’s where we planned to go. It was located right across the street from Amy’s Bread on Cornelia Street. But alas, it was closed. So what to do? Eat a New York hot dog, that’s what we did. Michelle spotted Gray’s Papaya, which she had learned about from a J-LO movie and I had heard about it on the Food Network (or was it the Travel Channel?). Needless to say, I had a few hot dogs and the flagship papaya drink. Simple hot dog, but still very good. You get a nice crunch from the encasing, which is the sign of a good hot dog.
Before heading back to the hotel we decided to stop by Ripley’s Believe it Or Not. I was a bit hesitant, because it seemed like a tourist trap to me. And for the most part, it was. I’m pretty sure that most of the museum’s artifacts were replicas. It’s okay, I still enjoyed looking at the bizarre and absurd. But at about $25 a ticket, I’d pass on it if given the chance to go again.
This is the first of a couple day-by-day updates that Iâ€™ll be doing during my trip to Philadelphia and San Francisco. I thought it would be cool to keep you guys up to date Â on what Iâ€™m up to and what tees I’m wearing! If you want to check out the tee that I wore, just click on the orange links.
The thing about flying from Hawaii to the east coast of the United States is that it takes a very, very Â long time. It took us 5 hours to fly to from Honolulu to San Francisco and then 5 more hours to fly from San Francisco to Philadelphia. We left Honolulu at 6:45 am Saturday morning and arrived at our final destination at 1:00 am the next day. After an eventful “taxi ride” from the airport to the Loews Philadelphia Hotel and despite our hunger, we quickly … fell … asleep.
Despite an uneventful first day spent flying the friendly skies, our first full day in Philadelphia was action packed. We started the day at 9:00 am by walking from the Loews hotel to the Independence Visitor Center to pick up our tickets to tour Independence Hall. With a 10:20 am tour time, we had some time to spare, so we headed to Mrs. K’s Koffee Shop for a classic diner breakfast. I had one of their specials, which consisted of pancakes, sausage and two eggs. Michelle had the same, minus the eggs. The pancakes were so good, fluffy and oh so tasty.
After breakfast, we rushed off to Independence Hall to make our 10:20 am tour time. We just made it. Actually, we were a minute late and the tour had already started. One of the park rangers (yes, it’s a National History Park), had to usher us in to meet up with our tour. The tour was an interesting one with a lot of historical facts intertwined. The State House is where the dream of a free country of independent citizens materialized. Here, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were scribed. I was totally channeling the inner Benjamin Franklin in me.
From the Liberty Bell, we headed to the final resting spot of Benjamin Franklin at the Christ Church Burial Ground. We both tossed a penny onto his grave, as it was akin to tossing a coin in the Trevi Fountain. After we tossed our pennies, a worker came to collect the coins and we overheard him mention that they annually receive $4000 worth of pennies. Neat! When someone asked him why people tossed pennies versus other coins, another visitor recounted one of Benjamin Franklin’s thoughts: A penny saved is a penny earned.
By this time, our hunger had been growing, so we set out for Jim’s Steaks which is considered to be better than the famed Geno’s and Pat’s by many locals that I’ve spoken with. So to South Philly we went, in search for my first taste of a real Philly Cheesteak. I was excited. The line at Jim’s was, as expected, very long. It took us about 20 minutes before we were able to place our order. Michelle and I shared a Philly Cheesesteak with Wiz and Mushrooms. I’m not the greatest onion fan, so we left that out. The restaurant was packed so we ended up standing and eating at one of the counters upstairs. The cheesesteak was amazingly good. The bread was soft and the cheese wiz was the perfect complement to the very tasty steak. I now know why Philly Cheesesteaks are world renown. They’re so good!
And as if we needed more food, we then headed to Isgro’s Pastries where they’ve been making cannolis for over 100 years. The bakery was filled with so many baked goodies that I almost went into a sugar shock before taking a bite into my cannoli! We ordered some cookies (Cherry Garcia, Rocky Road and Chocolate Chip Ricotta) and of course, two chocolate chip cannolis!
With no place to sit and enjoy our cannolis we decided that we’d make Reading Terminal our unofficial Isgro eating spot, as we had also gone to Chinatown. We’ll be visiting Reading Terminal on another day for a more thorough visit. Today, we just needed a place to eat our cannolis! Once we devoured the cannolis we went straight to our hotel for some rest before dinner at Iron Chef Morimoto’s restaurant. On a side note, while we were totally enjoying our delicious cannolis, an inquisitive wanderer stopped by, wondering where in Reading Terminal she could purchase the same cannoli. Unfortunately we had to tell her that we picked them up at Isgro’s. She left sad. And without a cannoli.
Alright, you might think that with all the food we had up to this point, we would be quite stuffed. Rubbish! We were both so excited to dine at Morimoto, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s sleek namesake restaurant on 7th and Chesnut. The food did not disappoint. Michelle decided on the Morimoto tempura to start and the seafood toban yaki. I decided on the 7 course Morimoto omakase, the chef’s choice multi-course tasting menu designed to allow you to experience the essence of Morimoto’s menu. It was worth the 80 bucks because at the end of the day, I’m not a raw fish fan but somehow, Morimoto made me fall in love with raw fish. I left full and satisfied.
And finally, Michelle and I put together a little photo slideshow of our first full day in sunny Philadelphia! Enjoy. You can also check out these photos on my Flickr.