Tag Archive | Tour Guide

Review: Gourmet Chinatown Food and Culture Walking Tour!

Dim Sum Go Go
All Photos By Gail Except Where Noted

Whether you have lived in NYC all your life, are visiting for the first time, or are a local looking for a fun and unique activity to entertain out of town guests, I can’t think of more worthwhile daytime activity than going on a Foods of New York Tours’ Gourmet Chinatown Food and Culture Walking Tour — which I took a couple weekends ago and had the best time ever!

The Gourmet Chinatown Food and Culture Tour is NYC’s only walking tour that includes multiple sit-down food tastings as well as an unequaled opportunity to learn so many fascinating things about the Chinese people and the amazing heritage they bring to New York City (which is home to the largest Chinatown in the US)! During this tour, you get to taste a diverse selection of dishes from three acclaimed Chinatown restaurants and one of Chinatown’s favorite bakeries, so you will enjoy several varieties of Chinese cuisines. You also get to celebrate the tradition and etiquette of this rich culture by searching out historical and cultural landmarks of the area on your way from tasting to tasting. Let me share a little bit about my experience of the tour.

Dim Sum GoGo Interior
Dim Sum GoGo Interior

You’ll start your tour by meeting up with your group and guide at Dim Sum GoGo (located at 5 East Broadway near Chatham Square), and this where you’ll have your first tasting. Our host and tour guide was a super friendly and knowledgeable guy named Raheem, and he was just fantastic.  Dim Sum GoGo served us a selection of five different Hong Kong style dumplings over the course of about 45 minutes, during which time Raheem told us all about the history of Dim Sum, which was fascinating.

Three Dumplings

Unlike the Ballroom Dum Sum places, where servers wheeling carts of readymade dumplings and other dishes will circulate around the dining room, all dishes at Dim Sum GoGo are made fresh to order. Raheem described the ingredients of each dumpling as we ate it. I appreciated the food vibe, which made each bite taste special!

Pork Dumpling
Fried Pork Dumpling

Steamed Pork Bun
Steamed Pork Bun

Dining Room

It was nice that everybody in the group had a chance to chat and get to know each other as we ate.

Lin Zexu

Soon it was time to bundle up and head out to our next food tasting destination. On the way, we made a stop in Chatham Square, where Raheem told us a little bit about the history of the area, including the background of this statue of Lin Zexu, a Chinese Scholar who lived from 1785 to 1850 and was considered to be a pioneer in the Wars On Drugs. Raheem called him the Nancy Reagan of his time!

Nom Wah Tea Parlor

We also passed by Nom Wah Tea Parlor on Doyers Street, which opened in 1920 and is the oldest Dum Sum establishment in Chinatown.

Doyers Street Banners

Many movies and TV shows film on Doyers Street to capture its authentic look and cool shops!

Aji Ichiban Sweet Shop

We had fun stopping in for a few minutes at Aji Ichiban Sweet Shop, located at 37 Mott Street.

Aji Ichiban Sweet Shop

Aji Ichiban sells packaged Asian sweets and also hundreds of different kinds of preserved fruits and spiced delicacies, including preserved, candied Rose Petal, which is delicious. Each bin has a small bowl on top for sampling.

Peking Duck House Signage

Everyone was excited to arrive at the Peking Duck House, where we were served whole, authentic Peking Duck with all the fixings. Raheem emphasized that not all places that claim to serve Peking Duck are truly authentic and he related the fascinating history of how the duck is prepared, including why only white ducks (with all white feathers) are used in preparation, and so much more.

Peking Duck Prep
Peking Duck Preparation and Service (This Photo Only By Anne Raso)

The Peking Duck is sliced and served table-side, wrapped inside Chinese crepes with fresh cucumber and traditional Hoisin sauce (see photo below). From the tender and flavorful meat to the crispy skin that melted in your mouth, this was the best duck I ever ate.

Peking Duck In Pancake

I think I will have to make a return trip to the Peking Duck House on another occasion — and bring some friends!

Columbus Park Musicians

En route to our next tasting we passed through Columbus Park (67 Mulberry Street), where you can find people performing traditional Chinese music, playing chess, and just enjoying the day, even when it is very cold outside!

Fried Dumpling

We made an unofficial stop at Fried Dumpling, located at 106 Mosco Street, because Raheem said this is his favorite place to get Dumplings in the entire city. Fried Dumpling sells six dumplings for just $1. Although this was not included on the tour, Raheem encouraged anyone interested to buy some of these dumplings and taste for themselves how awesome they were. And at just $1, how could you go wrong? (Note: they were excellent). They also sell bags of frozen dumplings to go! Fried Dumpling!

Joss Paper House

This elaborate model house and sports car (below) are examples of Joss Paper offerings, which are  burned in various Asian funerals, to ensure that the Spirit of the deceased has lots of good things in the Afterlife!

Joss Paper Car

West New Malaysian Restaurant

Having burned a few of the day’s calories with our brisk walk, we arrived at West New Malaysian Restaurant (46-48 Bowery, tucked inside the Chinatown Arcade at #28), for a taste of Malaysian Roti Canai.

Roti Canai

If you’ve had Roti before at an Indian restaurant, you know that this an exceptionally flaky, pleasantly chewy flat bread. Raheem gave us the lowdown on how they get it so flaky. The Roti is served with a cup of mild curry that has pieces of potato and chicken in it. You dip the Roti in the curry and it is just heaven. This was my favorite thing we ate all day.

West New Malaysia Interior
West New Malaysian Interior

Golden Manna Bakery

After a fun and filling three hours, we came to our final stop at the Golden Manna Bakery (16 Bowery) for a light dessert of the best Egg Custard Tart in Chinatown.

Raheem and Egg Custard Tarts

Above, you can see Raheem holding the tray of these mildly sweet and luscious desserts, still warm from the oven. The custard is just the right texture of creaminess and the pastry was the flakiest pastry you can imagine. So good!

Golden Manna Bakery Case

Golden Manna features so many tempting treats, you might want to pick up some pastries to take home with you!

A Few Things to Know Before You Go:

The ticket price of $65 reflects the Chinatown tour’s unique features: three sit down restaurant tastings, and larger portion sizes than you’ll experience on other walking tours. All tastings (except where noted in this review) are included in your ticket purchase. Be sure to come hungry! Unfortunately, due to the nature of the experience, no food substitutions can be made.

You will be served tea and water at every food stop except the bakery. Alcoholic beverages, such as beer and wine, which were offered at the Peking Duck House, are not included, but run about $6 plus tax and tip, if you’re interested. Tour guide gratuities are also not included in the cost of your ticket, and you absolutely should tip your guide. Raheem was really excellent and added great value to our experience. We tipped him $10 (each), which I would say is a ballpark appropriate amount. And yes, there are multiple clean restroom stops along the way!

Find a Tour and Buy Tickets at This Link! Enjoy!

Food Tours of New York Signage

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TMZ Tour NYC!

TMZ Bus Exterior Detail 2
All Photos By Gail

I’m going to go ahead and own the fact that on weeknights when I am at home, and also coherent, I’ll turn on TMZ and watch their low rent “news” on celebrity has-beens and wannabes that I’ve either never heard of before, or wish I hadn’t. I’m probably the least Star Struck blogger on the planet, but I consider TMZ to be my primary source of worthless celebrity pandering so that I can stay in the loop about what is “popular” – you know, for the kids. TMZ is also completely hilarious and boasts the least self-aware staff of any celebrity news program, so in that way it seems very down to earth and makes you feel like you’re hearing these crazy stories from people you know pretty well. That’s probably why the show is so popular.

TMZ Bus Exterior Detail

Fans of the show will be excited to find out that TMZ, in association with On Location Tours, now has a daily, two-hour bus tour you can sign up for that will take you all around the city from midtown to the tip of the island and back again, and point out dozens of places where celebrities hangout, pass out, get wasted, film their shows, actually live, used to live, got beat up, or were deeply embarrassed about something or other. It’s pretty fun!

You’ll board your luxury, air conditioned coach at the corner of 51st St. and Broadway, across the street from this diner:

Ellen's Stardust Diner

Our awesome tour guide was Matt Chadwick, an extremely friendly and equally hilarious and knowledgeable young man who cracked jokes incessantly but also revealed fascinating information such as:

  • Jim Carrey has an art Studio on Perry Street
  • Ed Burns is married to Christie Turlington
  • Macy’s not only has the oldest working escalators in the country (I’ve seen them!) but also the largest collection of shoes under one roof
  • Chris Brown beat up Drake at some club near the Holland Tunnel that I already forgot the name of, because I could care less about those two. Seriously who cares?
  • Columbus Circle is the spot from which all distances to NYC are measured

Matt Chadwick Tour Guide
Matt: Our Tour Guide and Former Australian Idol Finalist

What I enjoyed most about the tour was getting to see neighborhoods in Manhattan that I honestly never go to and driving down streets that I’ve never seen before in my life. And I’ve lived in Manhattan over 20 years! But, while I was on the TMZ Tour, I felt like I was visiting a foreign land, and it made me want to go to these neighborhoods on my own, and explore.

TMZ Bus Interior
Bus Interior with Video Monitors

The entire time that the bus is cruising around and your tour guide, who will be Matt if you’re very lucky, is pointing out places where Lady Gaga used to do burlesque, the loft where Beyoncé and Jay Z live, the apartment above the now closed Daffy’s (RIP) where Heath Ledger overdosed, and most recently, the park on lower 6th Ave. where Jonah Hill was recently spotted taking a photograph of a placenta (don’t ask), you will be entertained by hilarious and clever TMZ-produced video clips, that will further the action with additional graphics, interviews and explanations of what you’re seeing. It seems like the whole TMZ staff gets involved, so you will get to see all of your favorites, including Harvey.

During our tour, Matt hosted few rounds of fun trivia guessing games such as “Celebrity or Homeless Person?” and “The Finger or a Wave?” where the correct answer was awarded with a rare TMZ T-Shirt. So, Free Stuff! Matt really kept things rolling, and our driver was exceptionally skilled at taking very tight corners, and not killing anyone – because you know that pedestrians in New York City don’t stop crossing the street for anyone! The TMZ Tour is a fun way to spend two hours for locals who just want to get out of the house and also a good thing to take your out-of-town friends to. Despite the fact that we saw no celebrities, I had a great time!

Details
Where: 51st St & Broadway (exact location given upon purchase)
When: Weekdays & Sundays at 10:00 AM & 1:00 PM, Saturdays at 1:00 PM & 4:00 PM.
Cost: $49 + $3 ticket fee (Adult), $39 + $3 ticket fee (Children 11 & under)
Duration: Approximately 2 hours
Advance Ticket Purchase is Required so buy tickets at This Link!

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