Tag Archives: New York

Culture With a Side of Espresso

Nestled in the heart of the Garment District is an adorable little coffee shop that goes by the name of Culture Espresso. I would argue that the culture itself comes from the artistry in the coffee being served along with the decor.


This picture does not do the coffee shop justice. Inside, it felt like a little oasis in the middle of Manhattan, somehow away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. While I sat looking out the window drinking my coffee, I felt, for just a little while, that I was no longer a part of the stressful and fast paced world of New York. Sitting looking out the window, I was just an onlooker, not a participant. Finally I had a break.

Vanilla latte
Vanilla latte

I decided to be boring this time around and order my usual drink, but there was something slightly different about this vanilla latte compared to most. The vanilla syrup that Culture Espresso uses is homemade, along with their maple syrup. I wish I could say that I tasted a difference between their homemade syrup and any run of the mill syrup that most coffee shops use, but I could not.

My latte definitely looked like a one of a kind masterpiece, but it did not taste like one. The espresso in my latte was very flavorful, but it was overshadowed by the amount of milk that was added to it. I honestly tasted the milk more than I tasted the espresso, which was very upsetting, especially considering I am not a big fan of milk to begin with.

Chocolate chip cookie
Chocolate chip cookie

I also ordered a chocolate chip cookie with my latte. I was hoping it would taste better than it looked, but sadly it did not overall. The cookie was very hard and crunchy, which is not something I ever want in a chocolate chip cookie. One redeeming factor was that the chocolate chips were melted inside the cookie, giving it a molten center, similar to that of a chocolate lava cake (my favorite dessert).

Ultimately, I would not recommend this coffee shop from my experience, but it does have excellent reviews, which make me want to give it another try at some point.


Say Hello to Fresh Meals

This lamb is so undercooked, it’s following Mary to school,” yells Gordon Ramsay in an episode of MasterChef U.S. His method of mentoring aspiring chefs and young cooks is a little too harsh and overbearing for my taste. Yet he often describes the process of cooking as an act of passion, and his passion comes through in his work and attitude.

In contrast, cooking had not been an area of interest for me up until recently. Don’t get me wrong, my mother is a great cook and whipped up several inspiring meals for me for as long as I lived at home. From the creamy tomato-potato soup I had every day during the brutal Delhi winters, to the Rajma Chawal[1] I craved while eating food that tasted like cardboard in boarding school in Rajasthan, to the weekly Penne alla Vodka I miss every time I have to mix boiled pasta and a bland sauce on my plate in John Jay. But none of that pushed me to explore my own skill in the kitchen or experiment with ingredients.

I watched season after season of MasterChef (I recommend the Australian version over the U.S one), stumbled upon interesting shows on TLC and had a general interest in hanging out in the kitchen whenever I got bored at home. But nah, none of it made me want to cook for myself. Point is, there was enough inspiration for someone who was looking to get inspired. I am addicted to cooking shows when I can afford to be, and I could spend hours describing balance in food and sampling texture of dishes with the right person. I mean who doesn’t want to describe a PB&J sandwich as a puréed nut spread with a grape relish reduction paired with a brioche bun?

The inspiration I’d been looking for came recently when I heard about services in New York that send you a box of pre-packaged and measured ingredients, a recipe card illustrated with pictures, and detailed instructions on how to cook. They deliver right to your door. Maybe the idea of shopping for endless ingredients and spending so much time preparing and planning a full-fledged meal (on top of my never-ending to-do list) deterred me from trying my hand at cooking. We can go with that version or we can just cut the crap and jump to a project that single-handedly pulled me out of my cocoon of sheer cooking laziness.

I mean can you really blame me for getting excited about a package that promises neatly organized fresh ingredients with a detailed guide to healthy and hassle-free cooking? It sounds like the Christmas gift from Santa I never got. I might be digressing. You can blame Bublé’s Winter Wonderland that just started playing on my Spotify or my growing excitement for a charming upcoming holiday season. Stay tuned, I will be sharing my experiences of cooking out of a box in my future posts. We can collectively decide if these services really deliver what they promise (or if Santa’s gift sucked this year).

In store for the following week: Say hello to Hello Fresh. Hello Fresh say hello back. I just did this for the fun of making you say hello five times.

[1] Indian rice and beans

Fort Washington Greenmarket

Location: 175th and Broadway

Directions from Columbia

Travel Time from Columbia: 20 min

Hours: Tuesdays- 8am to 4pm, June through November 22nd

Produce Quality: 4.5/5

Prices: 6/5

The Fort Washington Greenmarket is a good option for the local foodie interested in moving a little off of the beaten path. This isn’t a farmers market to visit for your first farmers market, but if you know what you’re looking for and come with a shopping list and some basic Spanish in hand, you can find organic, locally grown produce fresher than a lot of the more upscale, downtown markets at much more student-friendly prices.

For those of you who are already preparing to skip to the bottom of this article because you’re put off by the location, please reconsider. The market is far closer than most other options and is actually only blocks from the Columbia University Medical Center. The trip is a 13 minute subway ride on the 1 followed by an 8 minute walk down the thriving center of Broadway where you can pick up supplemental produce from street vendors.

The market itself is a bright mix of food and clothing stalls hawking paisley shirts, thick knitwear and long scarves for the coming chilly weather, and there is an energetic atmosphere that probably stems from it not being a weekend market. Among the food stalls, there are noticeable absences of the customary honey and bakery stalls and there isn’t a drum circle in sight. Instead, the produce is laid out efficiently, vegetables as well as unidentifiable roots, berries, and fruits. If you cook using unusual ingredients and are wondering where to find them, many of them are hidden here among larger crates of the customary apples and oranges. Some of the fruit does have scarring or small blemishes, but it’s not noticeably different from the offerings in our local Morton Williams. After some sight seeing, I walked away pleased with a grocery bag of pomegranates and avocados that I will leave to slowly ripe.

Absolutely come if you…

. . . are interested in great food, great prices and a convenient location

. . . don’t like having your morning ruined  by a vaguely cult-like drum circle in the midst of your market

. . . are searching for the perfect persimmon

. . . listen to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights without ever having been to Washington Heights

. . . are considering expanding your scarf collection

Huge avocados for $1.50, ten cent limes, and a bustling morning in NYC.
The market stalls from a distance. Notice that about half the market is conveniently devoted to stalls selling pashmina and silk scarves.
My haul for today: two avocados and three beautiful pomegranates for when the weather gets colder. Total: $6