In mid-July, I experienced a lot of firsts. I traveled to New York City for the very first time in my 35 years of life. What a different world! There was so much to see and do, and most importantly to eat. I was amazed by the bumper-to-bumper traffic, the millions of people and constant sounds of sirens and honking horns. I was so fortunate to have a native New Yorker to show me around the city, to guide taxi drivers to my next destination and to introduce me to all the things. The culture, the languages, the pizza, the bagels, my first arancini, oh my! I have so much to tell you about.
I visited the 86th floor observatory deck of the Empire State Building. After all the times I’ve watched “Sleepless in Seattle,” I fully expected Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan to walk around the corner at any minute. From the top, I saw the Hudson River and the empty space where the Twin Towers once stood, security helicopters buzzing over 24/7. The skyscrapers, planes and trains were never ending. I rode a double-decker bus and sat on top while sightseeing Central Park and the Upper West Side of New York. The bus cruised Eighth Avenue while riders listened through earbuds to New York-themed music. I was living my best life to the tune of Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” and Alicia Keys’ “Concrete Jungle.” I sang and danced in my seat while onlookers questioned my sanity.
I ate soft tri-color rainbow cookies and flaky elephant ears in Little Italy, and nearly died when someone recognized me from Food Network Star and asked me to pose for a photo. I saw dragon fruit in Chinatown and wondered how many store fronts were being disguised by grocery stores and t-shirt shops. I bought a coffee mug from Chelsea Market and stood on a platform in Times Square to have my picture made. Of all the years I’ve watched Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest count down the New Year, it was amazing to stand where the ball drops. Sensory overload to the extreme.
In Times Square, I walked past a young gentleman with blonde shoulder-length hair and acne with earbuds in his ears, holding a sign protesting meat-eaters. I thought to myself, “If he has nothing better to do at 11 p.m., Lord help.” I saw the set of Good Morning America where Robin Roberts and the crew broadcast every morning. I passed by The New York Times office, and rode over the Brooklyn Bridge with my Uber Driver who was originally from Africa, but had called New York City home for 45 years. I cried when I visited the 9/11 Memorial and prayed for all the people who lost their lives in that horrific attack. I sang Miranda Lambert’s “House that Built Me” in a karaoke bar in Brooklyn, and you could’ve heard a pin drop.
Every day, the food was a real discovery. I celebrated National Hot Dog Day at a restaurant pop-up, with a Chicken Sake Sausage Dog topped with pineapple and jalapeno relish. At an authentic Italian wood-fired pizzeria, I ate the most delectable New York style margarita pizza, pizza with black truffle and robiolona, and these little fried rice balls with pungent lemon flavor, known as arancini. One morning for breakfast, my friend met me with a fresh-made New York style sesame-seed bagel with a thick slab of cream cheese wrapped in parchment paper and I could only eat half. At Alex Guarnaschelli’s restaurant, I had a tender New York strip steak with tarragon butter. At one of Bobby Flay’s restaurants, I ate roasted octopus with bacon, sour orange and shishito pepper, baked manchego cheese with white anchovy and charred beef with blue cheese, red wine and brown butter. My palate was one happy camper.
The legend Julia Child said it best, “People who love to eat are always the best people.” During my time in New York, I was with my 11 new friends from Food Network Star. I wouldn’t trade the friendships I made through this experience for anything in the world. As of today, there are only two episodes remaining in the season. Be sure to watch Food Network at 9 p.m. tonight and next Sunday, August 5, for the Season Finale. I’m excited to say you may see me again on both episodes! I’ll be sharing updates about these episodes on my social media channels, so be sure to like Some Kinda Good on Facebook, and follow @SKGFoodBlog on Twitter and Instagram. Thank you all for supporting me on this crazy journey!
They call New York City the City of Dreams, and while it was an amazing place to visit, to explore and eat, I was grateful to trade in the sounds of honking horns for crickets and tree frogs, the taxis for tractors, the concrete jungle for the Georgia pines. “Just an old sweet song, keeps Georgia on my mind.”
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Georgia native Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is a freelance writer, entertainer and food enthusiast who writes and speaks about her love of good food and the Coastal South. Watch her compete on Food Network Star this summer, Sunday nights at 9 p.m. Rebekah is the longtime Statesboro Herald food columnist and host of SKG-TV on YouTube. A Georgia Southern University alumna, she also attended Savannah Technical College’s Culinary Institute of Savannah. To learn more, connect with Some Kinda Good on social media, or visit RebekahLingenfelser.com.