Sunday, January 18, 2015

Christmas Fun -- Cupcakes to Kimchi!

Every year we think about all of the happenings in and around NYC, and we think about doing some of them, but inertia sets in, or the scheduling doesn't work out, or we just forget what we wanted to do. So this year, our family made a list of things to do over the Christmas break. We wrote up our list on Thanksgiving Day, while the season was still ahead, and while we had a lot of energy and time to think about them. Some of them were things we do every year -- we have a Christmas Eve fondue party, and get our santa fondue forks, and we put up our tree and reminisce over the ornaments we collected.   This year we made cookies and banana bread and shipped some off to family and gave them away to friends.  We went to see the  Big Apple Circus, walked along Fifth Avenue to ooh and ahh at the decorated windows, and zipped over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Cubism show and the annual Christmas tree with the angels and the wrap around nativity, and worked on a jigsaw puzzle.  But one of the most fun things we did was take a trip to Flushing, Queens, to check out Korean Barbecue.

We were inspired by NYTimes article: In Queens, Kimchi is Just the Start.  In Manhattan, there is a neighborhood called Korea Town, and we have some favorite restaurants and other shops that we frequent regularly. (Kate loves the makeup stores!)  But The NYTimes article mentioned a whole new world of exotic fish and seafood, traditional barbecues, and a mix of restaurants that are off the beaten track for most New Yorkers.  So we decided to make a day trip and head out to Flushing to see what the fuss was about.  This may not sound like a big deal to those of our readers who have cars and who think nothing of driving an hour or two to visit relatives or enjoy some local recreation, but for Manhattanites, taking the Number 7 train to the last stop and then walking for another 15-20 minutes in an out-of-the-way neighborhood is the height of adventure. Add to it that winter set in pretty quickly this year, and we were really feeling intrepid.  We took the train to the last stop (it's about an hours ride from Manhattan, and got out in Flushing, which is well-known and frequently visited if you want to try some traditional Chinese fare.  Then we set out walking, with our cell phone maps in hand.  We walked through residential neighborhoods, with Christmas decorations still in the windows, and some Christian churches that catered to the Asian community.  Our destination stop: Mapo Korean BBQ -- according to the article, this was the place for grilled short ribs.  Trust me, we were not disappointed!

Mapo Korean is a small restaurant with about 6 tables. We were the only non-asians having lunch there.  We ordered two Korean Barbecue meals -- more than enough food for four of us, and we added a side order of dumplings because we love them so.  The waitress brought out the hot charcoal in a pan and paced it inside the hole in the table and covered it with the grill.  The meat went on top, and then all the sides and condiments came out.  Delicious kimchi, corn pudding, lettuce wraps, macaroni salad, pickled cucumbers, bean paste, cabbage, and more.  Half the fun was trying to remember which items we tasted and liked and then trying to find it again!

Sadly, we couldn't eat another bite, so we started the trek back to the train station.  On the way, we stopped a grocery store, where we spent another hour trying to decipher ingredients. We ended up buying some frozen dumplings and some condiments to take home. We didn't want this day to end!

Nothing says Christmas like Kimchi!