French Food by Way of New York

Sometimes I wonder if the French Culinary Institute is out of place.

Don't get me wrong, I love the school. But just steps away from the front doors you enter the heart of Little Italy and Chinatown. While we re-create classic French dishes in our kitchens, Manhattanites have a cornucopia of options outside of our doors.

For a food lover, there's almost no better place to be.

This Sunday I ended up in Chinatown to catch the Chinese New Year parade. As a lifelong Midwesterner, I've always been fascinated with New York's Chinatown.

After the parade I marveled at the following: fresh tofu made out of a stand, fresh pork and chive dumplings (cheap at $3 for 10 at one place), a bustling dim sum restaurant in the afternoon and a variety of Asian (Vietnamese, Malaysian, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean) eaters sprinkled all over.

What's even better? You can eat at many of these places at any hour of the day.

As expensive as it can be to live in New York, there are plenty of affordable options to dine out. You could never eat at every New York restaurant.

On a student budget, I ended up lugging my groceries on the A train uptown. I bought fresh shitake mushrooms for oyster sauce stir-fry and green mangos for a salad drenched in a hot fish sauce.

When I got home, I again realized all my options. Within blocks of my apartment, I could have good soul food, barbecue, New York-style pizza, late night Indian-fusion and of course the garden variety take-out options.

Now that's what I call the beauty of living in the Big Apple.