Featured Spotlight: Alimama Cafe

If you’ve ever been in New York City’s Chinatown multiple times for the last 10 years, then you’ll notice how much it has changed.  Luckily there are still a few of the classic and historic spots left, such as Columbus Park where the elder gather, the re-located Tasty Dumplings, the old school bakery known for their buns, and Big Wong famous for their roast pork and meats. There are no more bootleg designer bags spread out on Canal Street (Instead, look for Asians randomly whispering “Coach, LV, Michael Kors, etc.” as you walk by. They’ll show you their stock digitally now! hah).  There are fewer Cantonese-style restaurants and heaps of bubble tea and dessert spots, but most recently, a new addition  has brought a more organic style to Chinatown. That place is Alimama.

 

Squeezed between various small shops on Bayard Street around the corner from Columbus Park, this little spot catches everyone’s attention because of its modern looking front with its cute, slanted, easy-to-miss concrete seating. Inside is a crisp, clean look where you’ll find a friendly face greeting you while making her products fresh. Meet Janie of Alimama.  I had the opportunity to chat with Janie a few times pre-baby after walking in spontaneously one day to check out the menu. Although she was never professionally trained, her parents and her love for exploring and experimenting with cuisine blossomed into cooking and baking.  “Some of my earliest memories are of the energetic frenzy of my parents’ kitchen, and their passion for food has really rubbed off on me,” she explained as I asked about her motivation to start her own business. “It’s just genetic.”  If she isn’t in the kitchen, she is always hunting for new inspirations in food, arts, and culture.

While Alimama has been in its soft opening phase, you can definitely find Janie concocting goods everyday from different flavored mochi donuts to ube charcoal bread to lightly sweet drinks. However, her mochi donuts and cream puffs seem to be the signature items as of now.  Unlike any other I’ve tasted, these desserts don’t make you walk away feeling guilty. They are much lighter in weight as well as in sweetness than the ordinary donuts and puffs.  Since Janie is gluten intolerant herself, her products also appeal to those who can’t eat gluten, which makes Alimama one of the few places in Chinatown that offers gluten-free desserts.  Although the protein is not in her diet, she has a strong sweet tooth especially for Japanese desserts. “That has been a strong influence across all of my desserts, from the ingredients to the flavors,” she says. “My cream puffs are a lighter take on a classic dessert that I’ve always loved. Mochi naturally lends itself quite well to all of those, in addition to its wonderfully chewy texture, so I’ve tried to incorporate it throughout my menu.”  My personal favorite is the ube and matcha cream puffs, both with a crisp textured outer layer and a creamy filling that tells you what flavor it is without being overly strong!

With almost 5,000 Instagram followers in less than two months, Janie plans to have her grand opening before May 1st.  I asked her what the best part of being in this business is and doing what she does.  “Seeing my customers’ eyes light up, the uncontrollable smiles, the gasps of delight and satisfaction,” she responds. “All of these are what gets me going every morning!”   For anyone looking to start something new, not having any background experience didn’t stop her from opening this shop. “Very few people know exactly what it is they want to do,” she explains. “So it’s okay to feel lost or confused – you’re not alone! Instead, just be open to new opportunities and take them one step at a time.”  

If you get a chance to be in Chinatown, be sure to stop by Alimama to try some of these treats out.  A huge thank you to Janie for sharing your behind-the-scenes with me and to all the readers!  xoxo – Lilian
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If I Were An Olympian …

2018 was the year of the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Korea. I’ve been a fan of the games since I was little, following mostly ice-skating in the winter and gymnastics/swimming in the summer.  However, 4 years ago during the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, I became interested in learning about all the other sports and felt an urge to do a self-portrait with my then-second graders.  I’ve always been adamant about doing self-portraits with children because of their ability to see and show their growth over time.  Some of my favorite portrait related posts include photography work with my co-teacher Rachel, black and white portraits inspired by fashion designer Isabel Toledo, and the first year I did portraits monthly with my class.  This time around with portraits however, is perhaps my favorite of all with my current third graders.  I gave birth towards the end of the project, so a huge thank you to Rachel for finishing the project and sending me some pictures of their work!

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A Whole New World

I hope you all had a lovely Easter.  It was quite sweet to scroll through my Instagram and Facebook to see all the fun Easter pictures people take. Though bunnies and eggs have nothing to do with the holiday, it’s nice to see people gather together and find joy in the day.  Meanwhile, this was the first Easter I actually missed in terms of going out for festivities and brunch. Instead we were home all day (or on my part, home all month…) celebrating this little one’s one month. That’s right!  Baby came early, hence my disappearance right after the last entry.

Meet Baby Kairi who so loves the world already.  Well, the world inside these 4 walls anyway because due to Chinese traditions, new mothers go through a “sitting month” where we don’t step outside and have to rest at home for an entire month! I know.. crazy, right??  Partially true depending on what traditions you’re told to follow, this article just about sums up this confinement period in the most hilarious ways.  As for being a new mother, I can’t even begin to describe the experience except that I understand now that we won’t really know what having a child feels like until we bear our own (emotionally, physically, socially). It’s quite the journey.  While there are struggles, the love is so huge, I feel like Jasmine sometimes with this whole new world I’m living in.

At the same time to be honest, I look and feel like this little one sometimes with just enough energy
to walk from one room to the other.
(Note: I am currently wearing pajama pants and an oversized tshirt as I write this entry) 

People are right though. After having a baby, there really is no shame (in how you look, dress, etc.) That bundle of joy literally keeps your world turning despite the fact that she refuses to nap and keeps you on your toes for hoooouuuuurrrrrssss… the random never-ending sounds she makes, the smiles, the incredibly loud farts she makes, the cute whimper sounds, the sudden cries that wake you up and then becomes silent (almost to say “WAKE UP! Oh, just kidding”) … yup, all worth it. She is already my inspiration and I hope that she will grow up to be a strong woman who fulfills what she believes in and aims to make a difference in this ever-changing world.  Girl power… oh yes.  🙂

Just an FYI for those who are wondering, this isn’t going to become a mommy-blog, but if you are a mommy and would like to know some of the coolest spots in New York City, recipes, and things to do with your kids, check out my friend Yvonne’s new blog, Hopscotch_Mom.  She has quite the fun ideas with her 3 adorable daughters!

As always, thanks for reading! xoxo, Lil

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