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Posts Tagged ‘New York’

While visiting New York last fall, my relatives gave me a little gift to take back with me. Every year in October, hoards of people eagerly await the arrival of a certain product, sold in familiar yellow packaging, that only appears as the leaves start to fall and disappears as soon as spring rolls around. I’m talking about Mallomars.

box of mallomars

Mallomars are cookies, consisting of a graham cracker with a marshmallow on top covered in dark chocolate. While I like them, I’ve never felt the obsession other people have with these treats. People have been known to stock up on them to secure themselves a supply long after they have disappeared off of store shelves. People from other parts of the country become upset they can’t find them in local stores as they are usually only found in the New York and North East region. In fact, 70% of buyers are from the New York area according to the Mallomars box. The reason for this exclusiveness? The makers of Mallomars claim that the chocolate quality will not stand up in the warmth of summer or in warm climates. I guess they’ve never heard of refrigeration. It’s no coincidence Mallomars are known as the cookie that plays hard to get.

And where does this cookie quality control originate? Where are these seasonal and regional cookies manufactured? Right here in Toronto, Canada. That’s right, these fall and winter wonders are made right where I live. Does that mean I can buy them here in Toronto? Of course not, although there are similar cookies sold here such as Dream Puffs and Whippets, which come from Montreal. Both by the way available year round. Don’t they know the havoc chocolate covered cookies can cause once the temperatures rise above freezing?

box showing Mallomars are Made in Canada

This box of Mallomars cleary shows they are Made in Canada

I don’t know if I can really embrace a cookie that wields such control, dictating when and where it is sold. I’m not into snack food manipulation. But if someone gives me a box as a gift I will gladly accept it.

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What a rough couple of weeks. Hurricane Sandy which became known as Super Storm Sandy which became Super Pain Sandy hit the New York and surrounding areas on October 29, 2012 like a punch in the gut. Watching the devastation was heartbreaking. Entire neighborhoods flooded. Lives lost. Houses and lifelong belongings and memories swept away within minutes.  While I was safe and warm here in Toronto, my family is all back there so it was a very worrisome time for me. The most difficult part of all this for me?  Not being able to get in touch with any one in my family. With power and phone service out and cell and internet spotty at best, it was days before I could get an update from anyone down there. It was such a strange and unsettling feeling. In these days of social media, with everything being tweeted before it seems it even happened, the idea of no communication at all can be a startling sensation.

Millions were left without power, some even weeks later. Gas shortages caused tempers to flare in long line-ups. No electricity, no lights, no hot water, no heat- I don’t know how my family and all those others did it. Would I be able to take it that long? I applaud their strength and determination and only hope I would have that courage.

Below is a video shot and edited by my cousin, Scott Meyer, a professional film editor. It shows the damage and devastation Hurricane Sandy did in Howard Beach, New York, an area hit particularly hard.

Living here in Toronto, I have experienced my share of weather. I think we only have two seasons here. Every year it seems we skip fall and spring and have extended summers and winters. Yes, I have felt cold. I have experienced snow, often more than I can deal with. I have also sweated through hot, humid summers. But, I have never been caught in a weather event that devastating or destroying. I lose my power for more than an hour and I’m a basket case. I remember the great blackout of 2003. My power was out for 25 hours. It was terrible. I remember following the radio coverage as neighborhood by neighborhood got power back while I was still in the dark. Nothing is more irritating than hearing ‘with the exception of small pockets, power has been restored to 95% of Toronto’ when you’re residing in one of “those small pockets” But that was only one day and it was in the summer. I can’t imagine going without power for over a week, in November when the days are short and temperatures drop near freezing at night.

Would you be able to hold up under those trying circumstances? Have you ever experienced anything like that and how did you cope? Let me know by leaving me a comment.

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If you missed Part One,  and the exciting details of my outgoing trip, click here.

As promised, here is the account of my trip back to Toronto

 July 26

8:00 AM- Leave relative’s house for train station to take railroad to the city. Looks like it will rain.

8:30- Arrive at Huntington train station on Long Island. Buy ticket to Penn Station.

8:55- Board train to Penn Station. Take up more than one seat with luggage.

9:30- Mid-point of train trip. It is raining very hard right now. Train is getting crowded. Getting stares from wet passengers for taking up more than one seat.

10:10- Arrive at Penn Station. Have to walk about 8 blocks to Megabus stop. Still raining out. Have to navigate crowded city with luggage and umbrella.

10:45- Find bus stop. It is outside and uncovered. Glad it has stopped raining. There is already a line of people.

12:00- Estimated Departure time. We have yet to board the bus.

12:15-  Start to board the bus. Again faced with decision of whether to go upstairs or downstairs. Family with several children heads upstairs. Decide to sit downstairs.

12:30- Pull out to begin return trip to Toronto

3:00- Make rest stop. Decide not to buy any food at this time, but get off bus to stretch legs and use bathroom.

5:00- Make scheduled stop in Syracuse. Buy sandwich from Subway.

6:00- Enjoying my turkey Sub. Bus driver suddenly pulls off thruway and announces we have forgotten a passenger and are returning to Syracuse, 38 miles away. Talk with angry passengers about inconsiderate passenger.

7:30- Arrive in Syracuse, again. The forgotten passenger is nowhere to be found.

7:45- Forgotten passenger found inside terminal, an older, confused woman. We forgive her. Passenger anger now turned towards driver.

8:00 – Leave Syracuse for the second time.

10:00- Arrive at border crossing-customs and immigration. Once again, gather my belongings and pass through quickly. Canadian border agents not as happy to see me as American agents.

10:30- Two mysterious pieces of unclaimed luggage noticed. Turn out to belong to the forgotten passenger from Syracuse. Crisis averted.

11:00-Two passengers delaying us from leaving. Remaining passengers leave overheated bus to wait outside and yell at bus driver.

11:45- Leave border: Final destination Toronto.

1:15- Finally arrive at downtown Toronto bus terminal. Wait for luggage to be unloaded from bus. Grab taxi for home.

1:40- Arrive home almost 18 hours after leaving Long Island. Take anti nausea pill to help me fall asleep. (See first leg of trip)

Well that’s my trip. Would I do it again? I don’t know. It was a very long, yet interesting trip. It was extremely tiring but was a lot cheaper.
Are there any other bus travellers out there? Is there anyone who actually prefers this mode of travel to flying?

Leave me a comment and let me know.

 

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I try to get back home to the United States at least once a year. Recently, I took a bus round trip from Toronto to New York. I had once promised myself I would never take such a long bus trip again. But with rising airfares, I decided to give the Megabus (www.megabus.com) a try.

How did it go?

Here is an account of my trip:

July 14th

8:00 PM- Leave my house by public transit to arrive at the bus terminal with plenty of time to line-up early and board the bus to select my seat. Fall over my luggage and bruise knee.

8:45- Arrive at the Toronto bus terminal. Look around at the clientele. Nobody looks too suspicious. Sit and relax while waiting to line up for my bus.

9:15- Realize there is already a long line for the New York bus. Hurry to get in line.

9:45- Board bus and faced with decision whether to sit upstairs or downstairs on the Double Decker bus. Bus is very dark inside. I can’t see where I am going. Decide to sit downstairs so I don’t have to navigate stairs in darkness.

10:00- Bus departs. My plan is to tire myself until the border crossing in order to sleep better. Wi-fi not working on my iPod. Use music and Angry Birds to keep myself awake for the next two hours.

12:00- Arrive at Border for customs and Immigration. Gather all my belongings as instructed and cross over problem free. I’m American, they’re happy to see me and welcome me back. Return to the bus and hope that other passengers don’t delay the process.

1:00- Other passengers are delaying the process. Decide to call it a night. Eat a cookie and take an anti-nausea pill in order to fall asleep.

2:00- Pull out of customs to continue trip to New York. Feel myself getting tired and try drifting asleep. Bus is very quiet as other passengers also trying to sleep.

4:30- Jolted awake by bus driver loudly announcing rest stop. Make my way out of the bus bleary eyed to use public bathroom with other female passengers from bus. Get back on bus try to fall back asleep.

4:30-6:30- Sleep on and off, waking constantly due to uncomfortable seats.

7:00- See that it’s light out and consider myself awake. Eat breakfast bar.

8:15- Time of arrival in New York City. Realize we are nowhere near New York City.

10:00- Finally arrive in New York. Walk 5 blocks to Penn Station to catch 10:15 train to Long Island.

10:15- Arrive at Penn Station. Watch 10:15 train leave. Buy ticket for later train from surly agent.

10:25- Board train to Long Island.

11:25- Arrive in Huntington, New York. Look for relative picking me up at train station.

11:30- Find relative. Decline welcoming hug until teeth can be brushed and clothes can be changed.

12:00- Arrive at relatives. Brush teeth.

12:30- More than 16 hours after I left my house back in Toronto, finally ready to begin my visit with relatives.

To be continued…

For my return trip, click here

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World Trade Center Tribute in Light

Tribute in Light

September 11th. A date that needs no explanation. We all remember where we were that day ten years ago. I am probably one of the few that did not watch it as it unfolded. A light schedule, and a beautiful fall morning, I decided to take advantage and run a few errands by foot. Nothing seemed out of the usual while I was out. It was only when I returned home I realized the world as I knew it had changed.

I remember that short period of time, hours that felt like days, when I did not know the status of my relatives who work down in Manhattan.  While they all were physically fine, some have memories that will never fade. Maybe I felt guilty by having a couple of extra hours of innocence, but I could not leave the television coverage for the next week. I remember my mother dragging me to her friend’s previously planned party. It was like she was telling me it was okay to join life again.

I look at my soon to be ten year old cousin today, her mother pregnant with her at the time, the surprise girl after three boys. How close was she to being one of those September 11th babies, never to know one of their parents?  I think about those children and how they are doing today.

Even though I live in Canada the tragedy and pain of that day was felt as if it happened around the corner. I think when it’s a place where you know people, a place you call home, the hurt feels deeper. I never felt more an American than on that day. Ten years have past. Like all Americans tried to do, I went on.  As the seldom heard lyrics of America the Beautiful go:

“O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!”

The site of the World Trade Center is being rebuilt. The 9/11 Memorial opens today and the 9/11 Memorial Museum one year from now. One World Trade Center will be the tallest building in the United States. Hey, New Yorkers still have to gloat. Hope lives on. But we all will remember what happened ten years ago today on a bright clear Tuesday morning.

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Drakes logo

I’m almost ready for my yearly visit back home to visit all my friends and family. Besides my memories, I also like to bring some items home with me. Among those things are Drake’s Cakes®.

Drake’s cakes are snack cakes sold in New York and other North Eastern States. After brief expansion, they failed to catch on in other areas of the country. They remain a nostalgic treat for people who have moved away from areas where they are regularly sold. There are many companies that ship them worldwide. Florida and service people overseas are popular destinations. They have had some recognition in recent years thanks to celebrities such as Jerry Seinfeld and Rosie O’Donnell.

Founded by Newman E. Drake in Brooklyn in 1888 with a single pound cake he sold by the slice, Drakes’s cakes now come in many different types. I would like to offer an introduction to those of you who are unfamiliar with these products. I have listed them according to their popularity with me.

Devil Dogs®

Devil Dogs

 Somewhat my favourite by default as it comes in a reduced fat variety. A Devil Dog is a sandwich consisting of two unfrosted Devils Food cakes with a white creamy filling. They are shaped like hotdogs, hence the name.

Coffee Cakes®

Drakes Coffee Cakes

Also available in a lower fat choice, these are pound cakes with a streusel crumb topping. With two in each package the lower fat version allows you to eat both at one time or share with a friend if you’re feeling generous.

Yankee Doodles®

Yankee Doodles

Formerly my favorite, before learning of the dangers of fat and cholesterol, Yankee Doodles are unfrosted Devils’ Food cupcakes with a creamy center. There is a distinct hole on the top of the cake where the filling went in. These are also packaged in twos. They are similar in taste to the Devil Dogs.

Sunny Doodles®

Sunny Doodles

A Yellow cake version of the Yankee Doodle. They are nice change from the Chocolate when you want something a little different.

Ring Dings®

Ring Dings

These are the favorites of many people I know. I like them too, but they are very rich so I only enjoy them occasionally. A Ring Ding is a frosted chocolate cake with a cream filling. It is similar to the Hostess Ding Dong, or as it is known in Canada the King Don. After doing some research I learned that Ding Dongs were branded as King Dons in some areas as to avoid confusion with the Ring Ding. If its one thing I hate its confusion over snack cakes. Although most places have gone back to the Ding Dong moniker, in Canada they remain King Dons. At least I am no longer wondering who Don is and what exactly he is the king of.

Funny Bones®

Funny Bones

A frosted chocolate cake with a unique Peanut Butter filling. I’m not that into Peanut Butter so I don’t really look for these when I’m out.

Yodels®

Yodels

 Basically a chocolate Swiss Roll. I like them, but don’t really see much difference from products offered by Hostess and Little Debbie which are available here in Toronto.

Fruit Pies®

Drakes Fruit Pies

I must admit, I am not a big fan of mixing fruits and snack items. For those who like this kind of thing they come in Apple and Cherry.

Canadian Vachon® Snack Cakes

Vachon® is a company based in Montreal that makes snack cakes here in Canada. They have some very interesting choices, such as the Joe Louis®, the May West® and the Ah Caramel®. For full product descriptions and pictures visit http://www.vachon.com/. Some of these are tasty, but nothing I have become attached to. Maybe because here I watch my diet and don’t normally purchase snack items. It might also be because these are readily available. They say the harder something is to obtain, the more you desire it. The heart wants what the heart can’t have. So does the stomach.

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As you may know, there are many foods I miss living here in Canada. However, New York pizza is the one I long for the most. In fact, it is the one food where I have just given up on finding a reasonable alternative. As far as pizza in Toronto goes, just throw some sauce and cheese on the box and serve that to me. It will taste about the same as far as I am concerned.

I can’t understand why they can not make a decent pizza here. It worries me even more that people living here actually think it tastes good. I owe it to the people of Toronto to make them aware what they are eating is not what ‘good pizza’ should taste like. I don’t know exactly why the pizza tastes so much better in New York. Maybe it’s the sauce, maybe it’s the cheese, or maybe, as they always say, it’s the water. The crust of the pizza in Toronto is way too doughy. Hand tossed and baked in a brick oven, New York pizza is just the right thickness, thin, but not crispy. You have to be able to fold it without the crust breaking. The perfect slice of pizza should develop a layer of grease when you fold it that drips down your arm when you start to eat. It’s usually sold by the ‘slice’ or by the ‘pie’. Most people I know eat it ‘au natural’ just plain sauce and cheese, but toppings are available. I think one has to load on the toppings in Toronto to mask the fact the pizza itself has no taste. For the same reason, dipping sauce is not usually required in New York and you will never be offered fries with your pie.

Do yourself a favor when you’re in New York and grab yourself a slice. Just don’t go into one of the chains and think you are having New York pizza just because you are in the Big Apple. Get yourself to a local pizzeria. Some are better than others. One of my favorites is Gino’s Pizzeria in Howard Beach, New York. But even the worst New York pizza will make you want to swear off pizza in Toronto. When I get to New York the first thing I want to do is eat some pizza. If I could, I think I would eat it everyday. And all these years my family thought it was them I looked forward to seeing. I’m just kidding. My family knows it’s the pizza.

A Piece of New York Pizza

New York Pizza has lots of cheese

A New York Pizza Pie

Does anyone out there have a favorite place to grab a slice? Let me know by leaving me a comment.

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