New York, my way.

[Or, back to our regularly scheduled programming.]

I’ve just gotten back from a whirlwind trip back to the States. It was a much-needed respite from the all kinds of madness going down over here (you’ll see soon enough what I’m referring to). I managed to cover a handful of states and eat all the ethnic food I could stomach (pretty literally, too).

First stop, New York (natch):

Unfortunately, I was still minus a camera (thanks to thieving Italians in the forgettable town of Calliano, who made off with not only the camera a little more than a month ago, but also my passport and many beloved items I’d picked up here and there over the years). Luckily, the bastards took my Canon S110, which might as well have been like taking photographs with twigs and a mirror. Or something. No, I’m joking: it was a great camera and I’ll miss it very much, but six years actually yields some pretty significant leaps in technology, according to Moore’s law (or what we like construe from it), not to mention significant reductions in size. I’m still working out how to get the best results from the new guy, so bear with me.

Anyway, to get to the original point, I wasn’t able to get any photo coverage of my first 10 meals back in the States, which included arepas at the ever-reliable Caracas Arepa Bar; northern Thai, Jakartan, and southwestern Chinese all different storefronts on the same block on Whitney Ave./Broadway (Elmhurst, Queens) and all for the same lunch; dinner at Blue Hill Stone Barns (lovely surroundings, overly intellectual food); Afghani (again, Elmhurst); an omakase throwdown at Sushi of Gari; and I don’t even remember what else at this point. Here’s what I do have:

The menu and view at Pegu Club, one of my favorite new hang-outs in Manhattan. I am totally into this cocktail renaissance that going on (also loved Little Branch), with an obsessive focus (on the part of the bartenders/mixologists) on ingredient sourcing according to season, home-brewed tinctures, infusions and the like, and the perfectly crafted, perfectly refreshing libation. What’s great about Pegu is its lack of pretension — that is, given its location and aesthetic aspirations, the place could be a whole lot snobbier, much less chill, much less comfortable and way too scene-y. But it’s not. It’s old school in the best sense of the phrase. And I’ll be back for sure. They also make some ridiculously beautiful ice cubes.

Two of the many reasons to go: in the foreground we’ve got the Jasmine-Peach Fizz. I forget what’s in the background, but it was even better than my I also got the Gin-Gin Mule.

While in town, I also hit up Xiao La Jiao (Little Pepper) in Flushing, per Sietsema’s recommendation with Our Fearless Critic and a slew of friends. The place was totally empty on Sunday at lunch, there is little to no English spoken here, and the middle-aged waitresses tried to steer us towards dishes they thought the white folks would be more comfortable with. Little did they realize who they were dealing with here.

Fried radish and boiled peanuts with chile peppers.

Dan dan mian: wonderfully textured noodles, firm with just the right little amount of resistance to the bite.

Clockwise, from 12 o’clock: tea-smoked duck, radish and peanuts, boiled peanuts. I’m missing at least five other dishes from this meal, including some delectably spicy intestines, stewed tripe and bean thread noodles. But this was the one we ordered seconds of after polishing off just about everything else on the table:

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