no reservations.

i’m waking up this morning to the soft pounding of rain drops against my window. it’s a welcomed change from the sand paper noise that usually screeches against the walls. of course no one mentioned to me there’d be renovations here this week. the gloom from outside is confusing me. is dawn just breaking or am i halfway through my day already?

i stretch out my arms, partly to release the muscle aches that cover my body from endless walks around the city, but mostly to reach out to the clock. as soon as my eyes settle on the time, i’m filled with enough excitement and energy to jump out of bed, throw on my sneakers, and rush out the door.

it’s 6:45.

a.m.

even by my standards, this is early. too early to be rushing out of the house on a day where my to do list has three completely unimportant line items scribbled down. but it’s the only way i can sample the one dessert i haven’t been brave enough to wake up for yet: the cronut.

i beam with optimism as i step into the rainy streets thinking i’m going to be alone in my endeavor. after all, how likely would it be for people to wait for hours in this rain? surely i’ll be one of only a few hyperactive eaters crazy enough to do this.

i lose myself in thought long enough to step into a deep puddle of water that collected in a small nook between the sidewalk and the street. my socks are soaked and my bright pink trainers transform into an unappealing purple shade. i make a quick pit-stop at starbucks, thinking that my usual double-tall-non-fat-no-foam-latte will be enough to sustain me in my upcoming wait.

my optimism is quickly challenged as i turn the corner from sixth avenue onto spring street. still more than an hour away from opening, and the line of other early risers, crazier than me, is turning around the block. i feel completely unprepared as i notice anxious patrons camped out with tarps, umbrellas and beach chairs on the curb. two police officers are standing in the closed glass doorway. i’m not sure if they’re there to protect the bakers from the hungry crowd, or if their presence is just another cop-and-doghnut joke waiting to happen.

i do a quick scan of the crowd to measure my chances. i count 140-sh. the ‘ish’ is important. if i missed a dozen people, i’ll have no chance of tasting one of the 300 freshly baked marvels. so i scan again, and resign myself to the back of the line.

i turn to the friendly face in front of me as she offers to split the shelter under her umbrella. we watch patiently as people give up waiting and walk away, and we begin forming an alliance. if there are only two cronuts left, she promises not to buy them both and let me have one instead.

the line behind me grows and i feel less overwhelmed now that i’m no longer the last person standing there. friendships begin forming as would-be-patrons discuss how far they’ve come from. they all mock themselves for falling prey to hype, and every conversation ends with a sigh as they tiredly mutter “i want to see what all the fuss is about.”

discussions turn to more serious topics, too intense for this time of day. i still feel myself waking up as i overhear strangers discuss babies and commitment, family members suffering from grave diseases, addictions and heartache. i start to feel the city wake up, too, with sounds of trucks rushing around corners, steel slightly scraping against asphalt , honking horns and buses passing by.

hours have passed since i got here. and finally, i begin to inch closer to the door. they’re taking in groups of 10 at a time, and the closer i get, the longer the wait seems to last between waves. with no indication of how close they are to running out, someone from the bakery begins passing around warm and scrumptious mini madeleines. i wish i had more coffee left in my cup, they’d go so well together.

nervous whispers begin making their way through the crowd that the stock of the day is dwindling down. i begin to admire the people that showed up at 5:30. in the end, their wait time will be just as long as mine, but they’re sure to secure their bounty. my fate of uniting with a cronut is questionable.

finally, my three hour wait comes to an end. i make it through the doors of the bakery to hear that i’ll be having one of the last batches for today. my clothes feel a little drier and my feet are a little warmer. i pile a few more creative concoctions onto my order and walk out the door.

i bite into it expecting to be completely overwhelmed with flavor. but i quickly realize that the experience of the cronut is more in the wait, the game that you’ll play in your mind to justify the time amongst strangers. it’s in the whimsical and random conversations of a soho morning. the challenge of waking up early enough when you have nothing else to do that day. the serenity of seeing new york while it’s still sleeping.

the coconut cream filling oozes out, and as i lick the overspill from my clumsy fingers, not wanting to waste a bite of this treasure, the sugar rush kicks in. the flavors are getting more intense, the texture of the buttery layered flakes is settling comfortably on my tongue. the crispness of the glaze is tingling the edges of my mouth and i instinctively half-smile to myself.

tomorrow i’ll sleep in. comfortable that a second serving awaits me in the fridge.

dominique ansel's world famous cronut.dominique ansel's world famous cronut.dominique ansel's world famous cronut.

Posted in new york | 4 Comments

vanilla sky.

something has happened to new york since i was last here. the flaming heat and steam-room-like humidity have disappeared. maybe i imagined it all before. maybe i brought a bit of the west coast here with me. maybe, i’m just luckier now.

whatever it is, it’s making me wake up feeling completely relaxed but also too comfortable to want to spend the day exploring. but it’s in me. in my nature to want to walk through new streets and alleyways, to start and stop new conversations. and to feel that each day has given me something more.

and so i find myself walking. my intention was to head towards central park. where else could i go on a day when the sun is so inviting, so gentle in its rays? i can think of nothing better than to throw a towel on the grass, and bask in the afternoon light with a magazine and a panini; i could waste the day away in a tiny corner of the giant park.

but somehow, i find myself on the other side of town. i didn’t decide to walk to the lower east side this morning, as i have on many other days. i didn’t head towards anything specific.

there’s nothing i particularly love about this area, except the food. i’ve had the most fantastic french toast and pancakes, and a phenomenal burger with a deep fried bun. naturally, then, i continue my walk straight to the corner of avenue a and houston street waiting to get my hands on the famed pastrami sandwiches of katz’ deli.

even with my intense love of food, i know this won’t be enough today. the thick cuts of meat smoked with mustard seeds are phenomenal, almost melting the instant i bite into the sandwich, but within minutes the affair is over and i need to move on to something else.

and so i find myself walking, again. my eyes catch a glimpse of a sign directing me to the manhattan bridge and i blindly follow it like a pilgrim heading towards plymouth. confused on how to ascend the pedestrian path, i turn to a street vendor that looks like he’s been selling squashed avocados and mangos for a lifetime, but he has no idea where to send me. he is oblivious to what is around him; he only cares about how many oranges his neighboring cart sells.

finally, my phone helps me figure it out. thinking this might be the most glamourous of the three bridges connecting manhattan and brooklyn, i soon realize the name is deceiving. the bridge itself is littered with unattractive graffiti on the small pathways. there’s nothing artistic in the spray painted works, they look more like visual noise than creative bursts.

but then the view from atop the bridge forces me to come to a stop. an uninterrupted horizon reaches out to the magnificent manhattan skyline. on this clear day, with only a couple vanilla colored cotton candy like clouds passing above, the east river is glittering as if the kohi noor and the cullinan diamond are fighting for attention at the bottom of the banks. steel structures are bursting into the sky. they were built to be appreciated on days like this.

and so i ignore the single dirty sock in the corner and for the rest of the two mile walk, all i can see is blue, sharp and piercing silver hughes, and traces of green parks reflecting into the water and sky. my eyes are feasting on this sight as i try desperately to capture it in my memory. words don’t do it justice, and neither does the lens of a camera. the apex of nature converging with someone’s imagination brings to life a new kind of beauty that i haven’t felt before.

i walk into the streets of brooklyn and leave it all behind me. i blink my eyes shut for a brief moment, to realize the feeling lingering is forever inside me now. i need to make this serenity last longer and so i continue the rest of my day on foot, walking, finding myself in new areas, and finding… myself.

the manhattan bridge.view of the new york skyline from the manhattan bridge.view of the new york skyline from the manhattan bridge.view of the new york skyline from the manhattan bridge.

Posted in new york | 4 Comments

memento.

i’m feeling positively disoriented today. not even sure how long i’ve been back from los angeles, i’m a little overwhelmed with confusion. how could my time in a city that operates at such a slow pace, pass by so quickly?

i keep checking my phone for confirmation. yep, it’s august. my days of dipping my paws in the pacific are over. the sounds of gentle breaking of waves are replaced by sirens that chase me around manhattan.

only a week ago, i was tucked away in the magical confines of the ivy’s pleasant patio, debating if i wanted their deceitfully filling grilled vegetable salad or their mouth watering mac and cheese. of course, i had both. and who could resist their tart-a-tan that is so consistently amazing? the sweet taste of the dessert coupled with the fantastic company of family completed the meal.

only five days ago, i stumbled into the rose bowl to witness one of the most intensely perfect musical experiences of my life. i sat in amazement as i took in the details that made the show so exquisite. the lights and the beats mixed together like a symphony while jay z and justin timberlake traded center stage as they lived up to the tour’s title: they are legends of the summer.

only three days ago, i was frantically running around the city trying to wrap up all my errands as if i couldn’t get them done back in new york, and ended my afternoon on the deck’s of nobu’s latest feat. the perfection of his signature dishes that i first tasted nearly 10 years ago are infinitely more exciting to the pallet in this setting. from the bahamas to beijing, he serves up nearly identical dishes, but only in malibu do the jalapenos taste a bit sharper atop the yellowtail, the miso a bit sweeter by the black cod.

and yet here i am today, confused by my own timeline. a little sad that each of those experiences, and the many in between, are already transforming into dream-like memories whose vibrancy is bound to eventually fade a little. already nostalgic for the people and places that i left behind, and already excited and eager for the next time i’ll go back.

eat write walk blogger nina mufleh at urth cafe in los angeles.eat write walk blogger nina mufleh with her sister at the ivy in los angeles. walking on santa monica beach.walking on santa monica beach.

Posted in california | Tagged , | 2 Comments

LA confidential.

i’m trading in my sneakers for flip flops this week as i switch coasts from east to west. after all, how could i resist the temptation of california’s comfort when there’s only one tiny continent separating us now?

this experience is already quite different than my new york adventure. it’s shorter, for starts. and it’s home. there’s no need to spend time in discovery mode. there’s no craving to try anything new here. there’s just a longing for the old, the familiar habits that bring me back to the place where i spent my childhood summers.

and it’s odd that there’s even a season called summer here, because it’s not confined to a month or three. the blessing of los angeles has nothing to do with the faux glitz and glamour of the hollywood hills. it’s in the weather. the fantastically perfect temperature that embraces this city throughout the year. sure, there might be a drizzly afternoon sometime in december, which gets every angelino confused as if the soft droplets from the sky were something so foreign even in concept that it might signal the end of days. but other than experiencing a wet christmas instead of a white one, it’s heaven here.

i often wonder what it would feel like to have a first impression of this place. i was born here, scraped my knees rollerblading in the parks for the first time here, grew up taking for granted that mini and micky and the disneyland firework shows were a given weekday activity.

it’s so familiar to me that i would love to see it through a first timer’s eyes. to feel the rush of discovering the venice beach boardwalk and seeing the plethora of entertainers that do the most outrageous things to capture a passerby’s attention. to shudder with excitement at the view of the sunset from the sharp malibu cliffs, and to see colors that i’m sure don’t exist anywhere other than imaginations and an artist’s palette. to be spoiled in the luxurious lap of beverly hills and stroll through rodeo drive as if it’s a movie set come to life. what i would give to feel any of that for the first time.

and yet all of it comes in as a very distant second to the real reason i’m here:

the unbeatable home cooked persian feasts that my grandmother can single handedly whip up in moments; the taste of which is so packed with flavor though the experience of sharing the meal with her is even richer than the saffron. the precious moments of getting to hang with my grandfather, feeling his warmth and happiness when he has even just one more family member around. the mischief of being with my cousins, reminiscing with some on our younger days and plotting more mischief with others. it’s sometimes hard to believe that with this tiny four pack we have whitened the hairs of our parents as much as we did. the comfort of being with my aunts and uncles whose homes and hearts welcome me back upon each visit. and my sister, who for the first time since our college years, we get to share this city together at the same time.

it’s with all of them that i’m truly home.

eat write walk blogger nina mufleh hanging out at the beach in santa monica, california.hanging out at the beach in santa monica, california.hanging out at the beach in santa monica, california.hanging out at the beach in santa monica, california.

Posted in california | Tagged , | 10 Comments

walk the line.

it’s cloudy over new york today, and that’s a blessing. the usually overbearing rays of sun that have been pounding over the city are finally trapped away. for the first time since i’ve been here, i can be outside without the worry of immediate dehydration.

it’s been so hot that my desert tested skin hasn’t had the ability to protect me. my dreams of serene strolls through bleeker street have been upgraded to a brisker walk. i’ve caught myself only shortening the space between my steps and slowing down the pace when i pass in front of an open door that takes mercy on its passerbys by spewing out the most generous bursts of cool air.

and yet that hasn’t stopped me from spending my days walking. how could i trade all the discoveries i’ve made on foot for sterile experiences in an air conditioned car?

so rather than race my way through the city, today i sit. not sure how long this will last, i’m thankful for the breeze that tickles my neck while i lay on a timber sun bed looking over the hudson.

my view is slightly obstructed by daffodils, cedar and sumac plants in the most unnatural setting. thirty feet over street level, where trains once roared through manhattan, now sits a tiny paradise amongst the concrete structures. the new york city high line has quickly become a favorite space of mine. despite the hundreds of people walking past me, i feel as though i’m the only one to have found the key unlocking this secret garden.

i will spend hours here today, mesmerized and entertained by the struts of visitors: the clumsy way their feet try to cling onto their flip flops while maintaining an even step; the slow shuffle of couples that seems to want the mile long walk to last just a little longer for them; the canter of barefoot children escaping their mothers, not realizing that hot floor is unforgiving in its pain.

there’s a man with a saxophone in the corridor to my left, projecting at just the right volume for me to feel like there’s a soundtrack composed for my afternoon. to my right there’s a shallow flat stream where walkers are invited to dip their feet and cool down. the fluttering of the water is the perfect compliment to the music.

and as the orange and purple shaved-ice-cones of nearby twins begin to melt and clumsily stain the grass they shouldn’t be stepping on, i realize that the sun is beginning to make its way out again. my perfectly lazy shady sunday afternoon is about to end.

child playing in flat stream on the new york city high line. working with a view from the new york city high line. workstationeat write walk blogger nina mufleh hanging out at the new york city high line.
Posted in new york | Tagged | 8 Comments

40 days and 40 nights.

i arrived to new york a few days ago on a trip that will see me through 40 days and 40 nights of eating, writing, and walking through a city that i loved before i knew.

i’m here for the most part to finish writing a book i started last year. it’s a book about the experiences i had in building my first startup; it’s a summary of all the mistakes that i made and the lessons i gained from making them. it still needs a lot of work, so as tempting as it is spending every day exploring, i’m going to have to have a few long afternoons with my laptop, moleskin by my side and a large cup of coffee. and luckily for my love of all things chocolate, today i’ve discovered a charming coffee bar that happens to serve a mean nutella caffe latte. it also happens to be full of books with uncracked bindings and topics so eclectic i can’t figure out how or why they got here. i seem to be the only one coughing or making any noise in this quiet and quaint sanctuary as my lungs are still adjusting to the summer heat and humidity.

no one is distracted by my interruptions though; i’m surrounded by over 8 million people too busy with their own stories to care for mine, and the 17 patrons here today don’t seem to be any different.

back to the nutella: it’s a little less latte and a little more heaven-sent-dessert. but i won’t come back for it. i’m challenging myself to write somewhere new each day. same goes for restaurants, food trucks and farmers’ markets. i’m in a gastronomical paradise and have read that if i ate a different place every day it would take me over 12 years to try everything this city has to offer. i’m definitely not shortchanging myself in the next 6 weeks.

is there really a better way to experience this?

Posted in new york | Tagged , | 31 Comments