Vegetarian Dim Sum House – Chinatown, New York

Vegetarian Dim Sum House - Chinatown New York

Vegetarian Dim Sum House

Chinatown, New York City, New York

This night began earlier when my hostess, bartender extraordinaire Miss Chockie, took me to La Maison Cointreau for an evening of booze-soaked education and history of Cointreau. A handful of drinks with just enough small bites to keep me upright later and it was time for real sustenance. My hostess and I grabbed a cab from Greenwich Village to Chinatown where we met up with Jake, Miss Chockie’s vegan fiance. Admittedly, when I’d been told we were heading to a vegetarian dim sum restaurant I was worried. Not just the usual omnivore-who-is-desperately-in-need-of-meat kind of concern, but the legit concern of someone who is soy sensitive due to a wonky thyroid.

Chockie reassured me….well, at least I think she did. To be honest, this night is kind of hazy in my memory and my phone with all of my notes died approximately five days later. In my hand. While I was on a hunt for bagels and Indian food. I found both, thank goodness, but getting to Philadelphia the next day proved to be a feat I’d not prepared for since before the dark ages of not owning a cell phone. Dark days, my friends, dark days.

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La Maison Cointreau New York

LA MAISON COINTREAU - 632 Hudson - New York

La Maison Cointreau

Greenwich Village New York

Back in October I traveled to New York City for the first time as an adult. Staying with a friend I’d met way back in my college years meant I had the luxury of having a local to guide me around for my first couple of days. NYC is overwhelming to me, because my brain is used to the vastness of Los Angeles, which I acknowledge is difficult for many to figure out. Miss Chockie, my divine hostess, is a bartender extraordinaire and knows how to work her magic with any alcohol. She was invited to La Maison Cointreau, a special industry event presented by Cointreau. With a cool, “She’s with me,” as only Chockie can pull off, I was able to slide in to this glamorous, booze filled evening.

LA MAISON COINTREAU - 632 Hudson - New York
Welcome to the land of booze

Though the majority of my images had to be chucked due to insufficient lighting, the memory of the night will burn brightly for years. Located at 632 on Hudson in the iconic Greenwich Village, the 5,000-square-foot nineteenth-century townhouse boasts three floors for exploration. On the journey, Alfred Cointreau, sixth generation family member, highlighted Cointreau’s rich history, its beginnings in Angers, France, in 1849, its inclusion in some of the very first cocktail recipes ever created, and its legacy today. Mr. Cointreau brought along some rare first-edition and historic cocktail books dating from the mid-1800s.

LA MAISON COINTREAU - 632 Hudson - New York
My Strawberry Mint Basil Cocktail!

At the Cocktail Lab, tables chock filled with vegetables, herbs, and fruit and sideboards lined with all the top-shelf booze and mixers any rookie or veteran bartender mixologist could ask for. Additionally, we were given drink tickets for the in-house bartenders to take in exchange for some classic Cointreau drinks. I had my first Cointreau sidecar; it tasted like falling in love.

LA MAISON COINTREAU - 632 Hudson - New York
Cointreau Macarons: Orange & Chocolate

I think, all in all, I drank about four cocktails. Food, you ask? Well. There were little itty, bitty finger bites, just enough to put into our stomachs to balance out and keep from falling to our deaths on one of the many flights of stairs we climbed. These macarons were infused with Cointreau and hit that lovely spot between richly chocolate and bright bite of orange.

LA MAISON COINTREAU - 632 Hudson - New York
Nicole Renaud on Lincordian

At the evening’s end, we were taken to a lower-level boudoir and ballroom echoing with Parisian chansons. Entertainment was provided by Nicole Renaud, a French songstress and accordion player who performs on am illuminated lincordian designed by Paul Etienne. Her performance was ethereal and haunting, but very beautiful.

LA MAISON COINTREAU - 632 Hudson - New York
Obligatory Light Fixture Photo

I don’t know how Miss Chockie was doing by the time we stumbled outside into the crisp night air, but I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I was inebriated and in much need of sustenance. As we were meeting up with her fiance, the staunchly vegan Mr. Jake, we would be heading someplace where Jake had more than two options that would still satisfy two hearty meat eaters in dire need of booze-soaking comfort food.

Which is how we ended up at Vegetarian Dim Sum House in Chinatown. Stay tuned for Wednesday’s post for the review!


  • 632 ON HUDSON

  • LA MAISON COINTREAU - 632 Hudson - New York
    Do you like Cointreau? What cocktails do you like to mix up?

    A Taste Of: Old Town Orange

    This guest post has been graciously provided by Melanie Kaminski. Melanie is the author of the blog LA Explorer, where she shares her favorite discoveries from her adventures around Southern California.

    Old Town Orange is located in the heart of Orange County and has long been a filming location for several Hollywood films. No wonder because it is quaintness personified. 

    When I was growing up, the Orange Circle (as locals call it) was home to countless antique shops and a few tea houses. In recent years it has become a hotspot for restaurants like Haven Gastropub (the original)

    and Linx.

    But local fixture Watson’s Drugs and Soda Fountain (going strong for over a century) endures.

    Antique stores do remain but they are now joined by boutique shops like Elsewhere Vintage

    and Eikon Home

    Though the business district is always evolving the buildings remain the same.

    And glimpses of the past can be found everywhere:

    Thank you for guest posting, Melanie!

    Travel: United States Botanic Garden Conservatory (Washington DC)

    United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    By the end of my first weekend in Washington DC, I was equal parts excited and nervous. Excited, because the metro subway system in Washington DC was easy to master and I was getting the confidence up to venture out on my own, further than I had traveled Friday the 15th, the day after my arrival. Nervous, because a cold front was swooping in and going to test my Southern California skin with its gray skies, chilled winds, on and of rain and daily high of 40 degrees. FORTY! That is 4.4 degrees Celcius! Not that it doesn’t drop to 40 in the L.A. winter, but at least the temperature has the decency to wait until midnight to do something so indecent.

    United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    Thankfully, KD and her husband, Guille, had given me a great insiders tip over the weekend: Head out to the United States Botanic Garden Conservatory and enjoy some refreshing humidity among the beautiful, tropical gardens. Not only would I get to enjoy the bright colors of nature, but I would be able to get out of the house and do something without having to stress about being chilled to the bone. So, come Monday, I found the courage to bundle up, grab my camera and my SmartTap metro card, and head out.

    United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    Thankfully, my friends live around the corner from the Orange & Blue lines, and signage at every Metro Station is very clear so I was only ever turned around when I had to go from one platform to another in stations with four lines. Getting to the Botanic Gardens from Capitol Hill SE was very direct, as it is off of the Federal Center SW station. It was just a matter of walking down two blocks and over another block as fast as humanly possible. I decided to cut through Bartholdi Park, where I caught glimpses of the Capitol Building through the evergreens and deciduous trees, and made a little friend (pictured above).

    United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    There wasn’t too much going on in the park, so I moved on for greener, warmer, and decidedly more colorful views at the Conservatory. Constructed by Lord & Burnham (architect of the Capitol) in 1933, this historic greenhouse contains two courtyard gardens and 10 indoor garden rooms, totaling 28,944 square feet of growing space.

    Here are some of my favorite shots:

    Sanokku Orchid - United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    Aside: My grandmother grew orchids in her front yard, and while I never appreciated their draw, many other people did. Living in a cul-de-sac off a busy thoroughfare, my grandmother marveled at how common it became to find a car pulling alongside the curb and a perfect stranger(s) would come out, camera in hand, to snap photographs of her many orchids. They ranged from professional set-ups, tripods and all, to amateur point-and-shoot from orchid enthusiasts. She did not care one way or the other, so long as nobody picked them. Me, being the uncouth country girl I am, never thought orchids could compare to the simple beauty of the daisy, nor hold its own with the classic rose. Now, here I am trying to grab the best shot of these cosmopolitan flowers, and I cannot look upon an orchid without thinking of my grandmother.

    Guzmania Marjan - United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    Tillandsia Harrisii - United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    Coral Aloe - United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    Oriental Smile Orchid - United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    Powder Puff - United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    True story: When I saw the final shot, I nearly cried from joy. People, I in no way consider myself a visual artist, so when I manage to snap a photo like the one above, it makes me want to break into song and dance with strangers in the middle of the street – rain or no rain.

    Pink Pentas - United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    United States Botanic Garden Conservatory

    To view all of my photos, please visit my Washington DC photoset on Flickr!

    United States Botanic Garden Conservatory
    100 Maryland Ave SW
    Washington, DC 20024

    A Taste Of: The High Line (New York City)

    View from High Line Park - Chelsea, New York City

    On a surprisingly warm October Saturday in New York City, I met up with my friend Jen at Penn Station, squealing as I ran to her, uncaring of the stares as this was the first time I had laid eyes on her in over six years. Jen is the kind of friend one happens upon under the most unassuming, random circumstances in life – a reoccurring theme for my closest kinships, truth be told:
    KD – A friend I made in first grade when she, a shyer than most girl, uncharacteristically approached me to play a game.
    Annie – We had mutual frenemy who dragged Annie over to my place, only to drag us both out to accompany her on errands.
    Steffie – I stole her lunches. In high school. She just kept feeding me, as if I were a wild squirrel.

    West Chelsea Traffic - Manhattan

    Jen and I met via fandom, and though she was not the first nor the last friend I made through mutual geekdom, she remains the only internet-pal turned traveling companion sight unseen. Yup. We trusted one another enough not to be middle-aged sexual predators luring the other into an After School Special trap. Not only were we not preying on the other, but we got along splendidly and had a grand adventure. By “grand” I mean “dove head first into international travel with as little know-how as possible”.

    Manhattan Street Art
    Street Art by Kobra

    Flash-forward to that ecstatic moment when we were finally reunited. We had already decided on The High Line for our Saturday excursion, though we weren’t precisely prepared for the droves that had the exact idea. My photos, alas, suffered a bit from the crowds in that I could not successfully snap a single photo of the High Line interior as the swarms kept photobombing me. Originally a rail yard erected in the 1930s, 30 feet above pedestrian level to eliminate dangerous train traffic from the street, The High Line is located in the now fashionable Meatpacking District / West Chelsea / Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton neighborhoods. Exactly that I imagine a true urban park to be, The High Line offers visitors a narrow walkway along the old railway tracks, now overgrown with grass and wildflowers. There are wide wooden benches and lounges to take a rest, vendors hawking food (I recommend La Newyorkina Mexican frozen treats), reflecting pools, musicians and wide, sweeping views of the surrounding area – which is what I am featuring here. Enjoy!

    West Chelsea flowers

    The High Line

    Current Hours: 7:30 AM – 5:00 PM
    Phone: (212) 500-6035

    Subway Routes to The High Line:
    L or the A / C / E to 14th Street & 8th Avenue
    C / E to 23rd Street & 8th Avenue
    1 / 2 / 3 to 14th Street & 7th Avenue
    1 to 18th Street & 7th Avenue
    1 to 23rd Street & 7th Avenue

    Smoking and dogs prohibited

    A Taste Of: Blarney Castle and Gardens, Ireland

    We’re going to pretend that I posted this, oh, about two and half years ago. I know over the years I’ve posted pictures of Blarney, but apparently I never write a comprehensive post on the afternoon Steffie and I spent there. Let’s just pretend I’m a better blogger than I really am, okay?

    It was a gorgeous June day when Steffie and I visited Blarney, and although everyone else made a bee-line straight for the Blarney Castle, Stef and I decided to explore the extensive grounds instead. Following a flyer that detailed the grounds with certain highlights, Stef and I took our time exploring winding paths, groves, sparkling ponds, and other greenery goodness.

    Stem of Bells

    Steffie Conquers the Blarney Stump!

    Moss Tree

    Paying Homage at Rock Close

    Though it isn’t technically required to pay homage to Rock Close, Stef and I weren’t about to anger ancient Celtic spirits of Druids, so we dug though our pockets to scrounge up a worthy enough homage. As every Euro counted, we didn’t want to have to use our change, as you can see many others before us had done. Luckily, I found a 2 for 1 coupon at the ioWest in Hollywood (blue paper above). So it covered both Steffie and I. Score.


    The Wishing Steps
    The Wishing Steps

    I wished for world peace and for global warming to magically recede in a sparkly cloud of pink cotton candy. OK, I wished for more food and shoes.
    FOOD AND SHOES > World Peace.

    Stay on the path


    I love tire swings. Love them. Love them like warm summer days at my best friend’s childhood home, drinking out of the hose, eating barbecue, and catching fireflies at twilight. There were children gathering. I didn’t care. Stefanie had to nearly drag me away from the tire swing. I almost changed my address to “Rachael – The Tire Swing – Blarney – Co. Cork, Ireland”.

    Hide and go seek?
    We played a rousing game of hide and go seek here

    Another door opens
    Tower with a View

    We were far more interested in this derelict tower than the castle itself, to be honest. I think it would make a great club house for kids. With a curved slide and a ball pit. Bazinga.

    Blarney Castle

    Steffie rollin’ in the fields

    We may or may not have rolled around in a patch of wildflowers for an inordinate amount of time.


    Blarney Castle and Gardens

    May: 9.00am to 6.30pm
    Jun-Jul-Aug: 9.00am to 7.00pm
    Sept: 9.00am to 6.30pm
    Oct-Apr: 9.00am to sundown

    Summer: 9.00am to 5.30pm
    Winter: 9.00am to sundown

    Adult Admission: €12
    Student / Seniors: €10
    Children (8-14 years): €5
    Family (2 Adults, 2 Children): €30.00

    No credit cards are accepted at our main turnstile except for large groups.

    Review: Market Lane (Cork, Ireland)

    I wasn’t prepared to go to Market Lane, however I was also not prepared for the complete insanity of the Bank Holiday Monday, either. As I’d spent my last Bank Holiday Monday hitchhiking from a literary arts & music festival in Clones, I didn’t realize the rest of civilization in Ireland kind of goes bonkers with this extra day to play. In other words, none of the restaurants I had scheduled in for my Monday meals were open.

    Even maneuvering around the city center was a chore because the Cork Marathon and some religious observation ceremony were simultaneously scheduled a stone’s throw away from one another. Sticking to the Oliver Plunkett side of St. Patrick’s Street, I meandered around until I found a restaurant that looked good to eat lunch at. Having spied Market Lane a couple of times before, I eventually caved in to curiosity and went in.

    Whether it was due to the lack of restaurants open for business on a national day off, or it is genuinely that popular, Market Lane was jammed packed. The host was pleased I was flying solo as he only had one lonely little corner to stick me in. That’s okay; my camera is less conspicuous in lonely little corners!

    My waitress was a stern Polish woman (a reoccurring motif in my dining out experiences, I’m looking at you, Nash 19) who knew what I wanted to eat well before I did. Though I was debating ordering the chicken liver pate with plum chutney and handmade linseed crackers, my eyes spied “French Onion Soup” which is my Kryptonite. Despite my brain warning me that it wasn’t worth the risk, I went for it.

    Onion Soup - Market Place - Cork, Ireland
    French Onion Soup (€4.80)

    While this might work for some, I’m of the opinion that croutons need to be toasted before they are dunked into a bowl of piping hot liquid and sunk down with a sprinkling of cheese, making it soggy in texture and unpalatable. The cheese is also traditionally a bit crusty – either with the use of a quick broil or a kitchen torch. These crucial elements being ignored made this soup an unfortunate miss for me. I am also a little more than curious why the soup is marked with a “V” for vegetarian if, as tradition dictates, it is made with animal stock? If it was not made with animal stock, I definitely would have not ordered it. If it is, however, most vegetarians would argue that it is indeed not a vegetarian option.
    Yes, I should have asked but some clarification on the menu might be helpful for actual vegetarians.

    Oxtail Pie - Market Place - Cork, Ireland
    Oxtail Pie (€13.50/95 at dinner)

    Oxtail Pie, innards - Market Place - Cork, Ireland
    Oxtail Pie – Innards

    Technically, this item is not on the menu until dinner time, but its lunch time counterpart, the oxtail cheek stew, was unavailable and my waitress talked this alternative up, saying it’s the same thing, just in pie format. As oxtail is one of my favorite hunks of meat, I don’t think I would have ordered anything else; oxtail is not unheard of here in the States, but it is usually a specialty seasonal item, or found in more Latino/Hispanic restaurants.
    Gigantic, this oxtail pie was extraordinarily hearty, with tender pieces of slow cooked oxtail in every juicy bite. I could take or leave the pie shell; this dish was definitely all about the filling.
    As I could only eat so much, I ended up taking half of this home, along with the Colcannon (which I had two bites of just to taste) and gave them to my host brother for his work day lunch. I was only a little sorry that I had shared!

    Colcannon - Market Place - Cork, Ireland
    Colcannon at Market Lane

    Would I return to Market Lane? Yes; their menu intrigues me as it is varied and appealing. I wanted to go back but was never able to fit it into my schedule. Luckily, as it seems I have a rather soft spot for Cork, there will definitely be a next time.

    Market Lane
    5 Oliver Plunkett Street
    Cork, Co. Cork
    021 427 4710