nyc // fit + kinokuniya

It’s not every day I get to see my best friend, Hortense. In fact, we’ve only been able to spend time together two or three times a year since we’ve left high school. Luckily enough, Hortense happens to be in town at the same time as myself, so we both take the opportunity to plan an afternoon date. The two of us have what I like to call a “low maintenance friendship”. Perhaps it’s because we’ve known each other since we were four, or because we have extremely independent personalities, but neither of us really mind being apart for so long. And even though we don’t speak during the year either (I’m terrible at keeping in touch, and Hortense is just always MIA). Obviously, I’d love for us to spend more time together (we were literally inseparable throughout high school), but for now we make the most of our sporadic meetups.

Hortense has been taking classes at NYU for over a year now, so she’s become quite familiar with Manhattan’s inner core. We decide to meet up on 32nd street, in the middle of Koreatown. The weather seems to have reached its tropical limit, and we agree there’s no way either of us are getting bibimbap or ramen of any sort. We take refuge in an air-conditioned spot called Yupdduck, which serendipitously happens to have special cold noodle bowls for the summer. After downing two or three glasses of iced water, I order a cold chewy noodle bowl, and Hortense gets its cold clear noodle counterpart. When our dishes arrive, I remove about a third of the sauce served atop the noodles, assuming it would be too spicy to mix all of it in. This is perhaps the best decision I’ve made all week, because that sauce is SPICY. Even Hortense has to take breaks, and she’s obsessed with kimchi. At this point our mouths are burning so much we could have ordered hot noodles and not noticed the difference. That said, my noodles were excellent - before the spiciness of the sauce hit me, at least.

We’re not exactly in a rush to head outside, but Hortense promises she knows an excellent dessert place across the street, so we pay and make our way into the unbearable heat. The food court she leads me into, Food Gallery 32, is actually the same one I had had dinner at with my sister a few months back after having arrived at Penn Station. Hortense orders a box of taiyaki from Delimanjoo, which is also the place Olympe and I had gotten our delicious steamed buns last time. These little fish-shaped cakes are a Japanese staple, and can be filled with red bean, custard, and even sweet potato! As good as they look, I’d rather get a cold dessert, and head over to Kung Fu Tea to check out their drink menu. I cannot resist trying the Oreo milk tea, which seems like an original departure from the traditional bubble tea joint options. The outcome is definitely not as chocolatey nor as rich as I had hoped, but as Hortense points out, the subtle tea taste is quite nice.

Our next stop is the Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), which always has a small but relatively good quality collection on display. This summer’s exhibit, Uniform, is particularly relevant to the both of us, as we attended the same dress-coded institution for over half our lives. We love the old military uniforms, and Hortense has a special place in her heart for the sailor uniform (I’m not even surprised at this point). Neither of us really gets the Chanel dress whose skirt looks like it’s made out of hankies, but hey, I guess they could come in handy given the insanely high AC levels in this country.

Finally, we walk back uptown to Kinokuniya, our favorite Japanese bookstore (Hortense calls it the “Japanese FNAC”). I can spend hours browsing through the fantastic graphic design and fashion sections on the ground floor. After falling in love with a few Pusheen plush toys, Hortense takes me downstairs to the lower level, which I simple cannot believe I’d never bothered to visit. IT’S STATIONERY HEAVEN DOWN THERE! Seriously. Cards, pens, and all the expensive binders you’ll never need. And did I mention the overpriced Miyazaki merch? That’s right: you can now own a stuffed No-Face and have nightmares of the creep following you around moaning “eh, eh.”