A Very #singlegirldinner Christmas

It was the evening of Christmas Day. I stood in front of a graffiti'ed door in Alphabet City with a bottle of Prosecco, a bottle of red wine, and a plastic bag containing crispy roast pork and BBQ ribs that I had just picked up in Chinatown. Chinese food and Christmas—it was ironic, I'll admit, but also festive and strangely apropos. Tyann's apartment was this year's urban orphanage, a place for us city stragglers to congregate. There was no buzzer so I had to call. "Hiii! I'm here!" I said into my iPhone, dancing around a little bit to keep warm. "OK, I'm coming down!" the voice responded. Ah. Kim.

Upstairs, there was a nest of activity. Tyann was flitting around the kitchen, preparing two beautiful red snappers and a sea bass to be roasted. (Tyann, and only Tyann, can pull off making dinner in a green velvet Peter Pilotti dress with no apron.) Charlotte and Preston were overseeing Spotify and YouTube with red plastic cups in hand. "Can we change this song?" said our hostess, while in full concentration on dressing the fish. Kim poured me my own red plastic cup of chilled white wine. "I had an open bottle in my fridge and decided to bring it over," she said. 

Happy holidays. Welcome to a very non-traditional #singlegirldinner Christmas, where Tito's Handmade Vodka is welcomed as though it were a bottle of Dom Perignon and vegan pumpkin pie replaces bûche de Noël as dessert. (And also where a bundt cake pan is just as good as fancy china, as seen in the pic above.) It's a gathering for those whose significant others are away with their family, those who are stuck in the city because of work, those who have a family but not really, those who are in "it's complicated" relationships, those who really are single, and those whose idea of Christmas is just being merry with good people.

Crispy Pork Over Rice

8 Bowery Street below Canal Street

My parents used to order a whole roast suckling pig for special occasions, so crispy roast pork has always been on a pedestal for me.  Oh, how I go weak for moist, unctuous chunks of roast pork with its crackled, crunchy, lacquered top, and hints of aromatic Chinese five spice powder seasoning. I can only find this in Chinatown and, contrary to what you may think, it's not offered at every BBQ restaurant. At Yummy Noodle, it's served over a big bed of jasmine rice, with a bit steamed cabbage and a small bowl of brothy seaweed & egg soup. There's also a side of hoisin sauce and ginger scallion oil for dipping. All of this for $4.95. You can also choose to add a fried egg on top for $1.50.

Nom Wah Tea Parlor


13 Doyers Street nr. Bowery Street

Tucked in the crook of curvy-swervy Doyers Street, untouched by time, is Chinatown's longest surviving dim sum joint: Nom Wah Tea Parlor. Dim sum for dinner? Now there's an idea! The kitchen is manned with experienced chefs who dole out plump shrimp and pork-stuffed sui mai, glistening rice noodle rolls, and juicy shrimp-wrapped fried crab claws. The real treat is chatting with the owner, Wilson Tang, who is always smiling and makes you feel at home. He chooses all of the restaurant's wine selections and recently told me about an Asian pear wine that I'm dying to try. If you're having a tête-à-tête, there's a table for two placed in a semi-secluded window nook by itself that's suited for swapping secrets. 

It's a Dog's Life

Two dogs from last night:

1. Downtown: A little white ragamuffin plopped inside the front door of a Chinatown hair salon, with a tiny spurt of pink-dyed fur on her head

2. Uptown: An elegant Great Dane sculpture at the opening of Peter Coffin's one-man show at Venus Over Manhattan

Kelley & Ping


127 Greene Street bet. Houston & Prince Streets

Kelley & Ping serves Pan-Asian fare on a cobblestoned street in SoHo--not in the gritty alleyways of Chinatown, so don't expect 100% authenticity. But there are still plenty of reasons to dine here: the atmosphere is stylish and lofty, the menu features a nice variety of curries, noodle soups, and small bites, and the prices are decent. Just order at the counter and pick a seat.

As a plus, it was featured in one of my favorite scenes in Great Expectations: Finn finds Estella's table and asks her to dance. The two start slow-dancing in the middle of the restaurant, then rush out the door into the rain, and start kissing. By the way, in this scene, Estella (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) is wearing a Donna Karan evening dress while Chinese lacquered roast ducks are hanging on hooks in the open kitchen. I mean, how amazing is that?