NYC Food Career Trek

(This post is late. Really late. But still extremely important to me, so here it goes! Better late than never?)

In early April I went on a career trek to Union Square Hospitality Group and Brooklyn Food Works, and then ended the weekend by going to the Cherry Bombe Marketplace. In between these events, I got to explore more of NYC’s food scene with fellow classmates who also happened to be city natives. A very inspiring, food-filled weekend!

Cha Cha Matcha

First, we had the incredible opportunity to meet and speak with Danny Meyer, the CEO of USHG. Something that really stuck with me was what he said about what makes a good restaurant. USHG boasts 28 James Beard Foundation Awards and is consistently rated highly by publications such as The New York Times and Zagat. However, Meyer said that while these awards are all amazing honors, what matters most to him is winning awards such as “Most Favorite Restaurant in NYC.” He explained that you can make every last detail in your restaurant absolutely perfect: the world’s top chefs, the highest quality ingredients, impeccable servers… but becoming someone’s favorite restaurant is the most difficult achievement.

His words have stuck with me ever since. What makes a restaurant a favorite restaurant? I think that what Meyer described is what draws me most to this industry. A good restaurant isn’t just about the food, but about the memories and the people.

Brooklyn Foodworks brought another exciting perspective of the food industry, from the product-based start-up side. Kitchens are expensive and perishable food companies are hard, so Brooklyn Foodworks provides a shared kitchen and thinking space for small food companies to learn from each other before they earn enough money to support themselves on their own. While the USHG office had a creative but definitely fine-tuned maturity, Brooklyn Foodworks buzzed with raw excitement and unpolished energy. We walked through the back kitchen to see the shelves and shelves of ingredients, all with tape labels of the new companies in sharpie. People working at Brooklyn Foodworks came from all backgrounds, ranging from food delivery boys to high-level consultants.

Finally, I ended the weekend by going to Cherry Bombe Marketplace (the more affordable, second-day version of Cherry Bombe Jubilee!). At the Marketplace, I got to meet even more incredible food entrepreneurs, all of them incredible women. I loved looking around at each of the different stalls, each with their unique products, thoughtful designs, interesting backstories; each representing countless hours of hard work and passion. I also got to meet my food blogging idol (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) Molly Yeh from my name is yeh, as she gave a sprinkle cake demonstration. Again, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

With Molly Yeh!
Cherry Bombe Marketplace

It’s been almost 2 months now, but I still can’t get this weekend out of my mind. I left NY on such a high!

Recipe Roundup / Unique Flavor Combinations

Life in the small tourist town of Xizhou is completely the opposite of my life as a student in Philadelphia, which is a nice change of pace. Most tourists stay in the larger neighboring town of Dali; Xizhou is just an interesting stop along their way to other bigger sites. Thus, shops here open late and close early, which gives me a lot of free time before and after work that I am not used to. I have already finished three books in the last week and a half, soaking up as much as I can about Chinese history and the local area. After a couple hours of reading in the evening, I go to bed almost as soon as it is fully dark out: around 9pm.

However, when I want a break from reading, I have been dreaming up all sorts of interesting flavor combinations I want to experiment with in future baking projects. Maybe it is because I am being exposed to such different, incredible foods (allllll the Chinese food + my Xizhou xiaochi project!), or because I suddenly don’t have access to ingredients/kitchen like I am used to. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not pining over the new absence of blueberries or dark chocolate chips in my life. But I am already making a list, ranked by priority, of the things I am going to make at the end of the summer!

Here are some recipes with unique flavor combinations that I am feeling particularly inspired by:

Sichuan Peppercorn Blueberry Oatmeal Pie / Lady and Pups

Fig, Balsamic, and Rosemary Hand Pies / Local Milk Blog

Blueberry Lavender Pound Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Cream / The Kitchen McCabe

Strawberry Basil Cupcakes with Basil Buttercream / The Cupcake Project

Looking back, it actually looks like there is a common theme of fruit + herbs!


Side note – in case you’re interested, here are the books I have read so far:

  • River Town, Peter Hessler
    I keep catching myself narrating my life in Xizhou in the same way that he writes…. weird?
  • Travels Through Dali With a Leg of Ham Zhang Mei
    An interesting combination of travel, autobiography, recipes, and photos. I love that I am starting to recognize the places + ingredients she talks about!
  • Dragon Lady, Sterling Seagrave
    The real (?) story of Empress Cixi, one of the three empresses in Chinese history. Depressing and a little inspiring, but mostly just fascinating.

NYC Transit Standards Manual

Good morning!

I stumbled upon a post that the original New York City Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual from 1970, which was recently found in a locker beneath old gym clothes. When I first saw this my reaction was “Yeah, okay, who cares, a big book of letters”, but the more I thought about it, the cooler it seemed. This book contains the code to the transportation designs of NYC!

NYC Transit Manuel  // via blog.leahsprague.comNYC Transit Manuel // via blog.leahsprague.comNYC Transit Manual // via blog.leahsprague.comNYC Transit Manuel // via blog.leahsprague.comNYC Transit Manuel // via  NYC Transit Manual // via blog.leahsprague.comNYC Transit Manual // via


You can see the entire book page by page here. Have a great Friday everyone! -Leah