Our last stop in New York City for May 2011: Minetta Tavern. We scored reservations right when they opened and experienced some of the best service we’d had all week. Eggs Benedict ended up on in front of me again, this time in the more traditional manner but equally compelling. Can’t help what you love. I recommend Minetta Tavern. Lovely final stop.
We left with plenty of time to JFK and sailed across several highways. All was looking well for our departure before the traditional late-afternoon JFK slowdown in the takeoff queue, when our plane basically got backed into a ditch. And apparently the asphalt was going soft, worsening conditions. It’s not even Summer, folks.
Several tow trucks later — including the largest they had on the airport premises — we were out of that ditch. But, we needed refueling which led to more paperwork which led to getting in a very long queue to leave.
3 hours later, we were aloft. They were out of everything except crackers, and I’m still a little bitter over paying $5 for that measly snack box.
We eventually made it home.
If you ever find yourself wondering about a good time to visit NYC, may I suggest Memorial Day Weekend? The crowds thin remarkably. This is our second visit and the natives confirmed it’s often like this, as many head to the shore.
This morning, Mr. T & I finally made it to Balthazar. It’s been on my list for years, and very nearly got nixed this visit (I wanted to make sure we wouldn’t be too full for Di Fara), but I’m so glad we made it. I’ve been hunting for great Eggs Benedict since this Redfish Benedict in Baton Rouge. Most fall short; Balthazar’s Eggs Norwegian was To Die For. Our waitress recommended the bread basket and the fruit bowl — we took her up on the latter, and found it perfectly refreshing.
We puttered around the apartment for a bit, before heading back to Brooklyn, to finally get a piece of some good New York pizza at DiFara. We’ve been trying for years, and this was the first time we’ve actually thought it was worth writing home about. I ordered a slice of the pepperoni and green olives, which incidentally, have been my favorite toppings since I was at least 10 years old. (I remember my Dad ordering this for me for my 10th birthday back when those toppings were options, from Domino’s. That was a happy meal.)
Then, we took the long way to Smorgasburg, the new food-focused market by the folks behind The Brooklyn Flea. It was very Portlandia, and we may have been a little too full too appreciate it.
I ordered a Pear shave ice and Mr. T tried the Rhubarb Ginger.
We wandered Brooklyn a bit before lounging around the apartment some more, then tried to give Ippudo the ramen shop one more try.
While our names languished on Ippudo’s wait list, we hopped over to Mayahuel, another Rocky bar rec. As I am a sucker for anything vaguely Mexican, once one tequila drink was down, we gave up on Ippudo and ordered ceviche (okay) and tamales (good). Stellar drinks — the female bartender was top notch and guided us through the rest of our orders. Turns out, she is from the Northwest! (Portland, to be precise.) We wrapped up our visit by having shots with her, of the special house tequila. It’s my favorite NYC bar from this trip.
If you go, we liked all we tried:
Herb Albert: Jalapeno infused blanco tequila, mezcal, oregano, lime
the Watermelon Seasonal: not on the menu and I wish I remembered the ingredients, other than the watermelon-salt rim!
Randy Cocktail: Reposado tequila, lime and ginger, with a rinse of mezcal
Bermuda Longtal: Jalapeno infused tequila, pineapple infused mezcal, lime, yellow chartreuse
Cantinflas: Reposado tequila, dry oloroso sherry, amaro, grand marnier, xocolatl mole bitters
I made it a point to see one exhibit while I was in NYC this time: Savage Beauty at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, featuring the fashion of Alexander McQueen. The rumors of massive lines and wall-to-wall humanity are true. I tried to photograph the waiting hordes (the exhibit itself forbid cameras), but they’ve done a clever job of winding lines through the museum. I left this exemplary art exhibit finally understanding the love for Sarah Jessica Parker’s fashion choices.
The last time I’d visited the Met, I was in my final month of college. It felt good to afford the donation-admission this time.
The gloom from yesterday’s lackluster lunch was dispelled by today’s choices:
Breakfast at No. 7 Sub
I started my day with the General Tso’s soft-boiled egg breakfast sandwich: a messy delight.
Lunch at ABC Kitchen
When I arrived at ABCK, the host and hostess were borderline dismissive, like the guys in the Jeffrey SNL skit. I don’t experience this often amongst New Yorkers even at more elevated establishments, so I humored them (read: ignored) and caught up on Facebook til I was seated.
On the other hand, the wait staff were gracious and charming. I settled into a Basil Lime Daiquiri and promised myself I’d recreate the syrup at home. I ordered the burger. I know. But I wasn’t in the headspace for greenmarket preciousness. And I’d never had an Akaushi burger before. And it had jalapenos! And I was missing Burger of the Month! I had to make that up somehow.
My eye’d caught the dessert menu when I arrived, so I cut myself off early to order dessert. That’s where I lost all sense of boundary and plowed through this massive ice cream sundae with the joy of a free spirit not facing a diabetic coma on the other side. It was: salted caramel ice cream, candied peanuts and popcorn, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce. It could have fed three people. It was epic. It was awesome. I needed a nap.
Dinner at Dram
Once my sugar stabilized, Mr. T and I went to Brooklyn. This was the first time I’ve intentionally gone there without planning to walk right back across the Brooklyn Bridge. It seemed inconvenient before but once we got there, we relaxed. We ate and drank at Dram, and wandered the leafy hood before heading home.
Sometimes, during trips away from Seattle, I panic about trying to see or try or taste all I might want. Today’s reservations were a reflection of trying to cram in all the recs after my Tuesday freakout.
I started my morning at Gramercy Park’s Maialino, a new Italian place recommended by everybody and their brother. Akin to Locanda Verde, they serve a solid Italian breakfast (covered well by Serious Eats, which sold me the reservation, really). Service was excellent but I started my bubbling skillet of Amatriciana (eggs in spicy tomato sauce) too soon. Burn!
Mostly, I eavesdropped on my table neighbors, observing neurotic New Yorkers in their element. The lady to my right was trapped in an early-era Sex and the City episode. My waiter brought extra focaccia for the delicious amatriciana sauce — a perfect way to linger to pick up stories told to my left, between two unemployed writers railing against a declining publishing industry.
I had to get back to the morning grind, to earn my Harlem lunch break up at the Red Rooster. Maybe the lunch cooks are the C-Team, but I didn’t get why the place is popular enough to be booked a month in advance. My fried yardbird was fairly dessicated — I’ve had better chicken from the Safeway deli case in the hour before closing. The gravy, on the other, hand, was worth writing home about, as was the service. The hostess butchered my last name upon arrival, but that distinction meant she remembered it when wishing me a good day as I departed.
Young G was leaving Friday (tomorrow), and he still hadn’t seen Central Park. We made a special trip north after work to show it off. After only marching 100 yards into the park, he was so underwhelmed by the place that we turned back. Well hell, I wasn’t going to sell it when I had other things I could do, like gather treats from Bouchon Bakery and Momofuku’s Milk in Midtown. I did just that on the way to dinner. (We’ve already exhausted Monday’s crack pie stash.)
The 90-minute waitlist at downtown’s Ippudo (ramen) drove us deeper into the East Village for pre-dinner Pommes Frites. Once we came across quick sandwiches at Baoguette, it was all over for Ippudo. I had to try the Vietnamese take on a Sloppy Joe. I like my mom’s mid-western version better.
I hope that someday that Young G makes it to the Bethesda Fountain. We walked him past Madison Square Park one more time.
Last Fall, I walked to the High Line several times and noticed The Tipsy Parson in our hood on the way, either coming or going. What I remembered most was that each time I walked by in the evenings, the foggy windows allowed just a glimpse into a cozy-looking hangout. This time, I googled ahead for the word on the street. Turns out, it’s a place that specializes in southern comfort food. Sold! I had a late lunch of fried pickles, mac and cheese, and a Rhubarb Smash (rhubarb bitters!). ‘Tis the season for rhubarb.
Tonight was a special occasion dinner, commemorated at Blue Ribbon Sushi, per recommendation by Mr. T’s boss’ boss (grand-boss, as we’ve begun calling it). I’d share pictures, but it was too dark inside. Great meal, but as we wrapped it up before sunset, I fired up the phone to find the nearest watering hole on my nyc-may2011 map.
We found ourselves in the subterranean Little Branch in the West Village. My husband discovered a new standard cocktail: The Penicillin, while I went for a ginger concoction. Young G reverted to beer. I think we all left happy.
Today I decided there was more to explore at Mad. Sq. Eats. I checked out Calexico’s tacos and their chipotle pork quesadilla. That sauce was worth writing home about.
I got a lot of work done at the apartment before joining Mr. T and his crew at Room Service. Room Service is a Thai restaurant conveniently located near Mr. T’s workplace (one of his teammates is in her last two weeks of pregnancy and it’s uncomfortable for her to walk much farther). I’ll say this: on the menu, I ordered the Pad Noh Mai, something I’d never had before — a dish they proclaimed as truly Thai spicy. The description said, “Very spicy. This plate won’t be adjusted to suit American tastes.” I felt like a bad-ass since I thought it tasted normally spiced. (Maybe the mango mojito was just that refreshing?) The food was very good. Seattle has this genre covered well already, so while I wouldn’t have normally selected this place, it was a happy dinner.
The party broke up as we entered the magic hour and I suggested to Mr. T and the Young G that we check out The High Line.
We got even more ambitious — since Young G wanted to see it, we headed to Lower Manhattan for the WTC site and Wall Street.
We came across the Irish Famine Memorial. On the top side of that complex, it is remarkably like rural Ireland — a patch of dirt and scraggy bushes with a winding path to a viewpoint, right in the shadow of office towers.
But these are probably my favorite images of Lower Manhattan that evening, taken by Mr. T:
In the Chelsea apartment this time, we had this great view of 7th Avenue. Sure, our situation was a little noisier than our last visit, but I realized the spacious room setup enabled me to feel apart of the bustling city while I worked away at the desk. I could look out briefly for people-watching opportunities.
At lunch, I checked out the nearby Madison Square Eats food truck congregation. I picked up some Ginger Syrup from the P&H Soda Co. to carry back to Seattle, some Hibiscus Tea from Spices and Tease, a feta and olive pretzel from Sigmund’s Pretzel Shop for mid-afternoon, and The Bee Sting from Roberta’s for lunch. Oh, and maybe some Crack Pie from Momofuku Milk Bar’s outpost found its way into my bag.
Early afternoon, the housekeeper stopped by. She saw me starting the spicy soppressata and honey pizza and said she could come back later, when I was “done eating.” Obviously, she doesn’t know me well yet, because I couldn’t see that happening for the remainder of the week.
When Mr. T & his coworker (G) arrived back at the building after their day, we went to Momofuku Ssäm Bar. I’ve been meaning to get to this place for YEARS. It lives up to the hype. We had pork belly buns, straight up pork on a plate with espresso flavored mustard, braised oxtail dumplings, and chili soft shell crab with sour plum, lemon confit, and green garlic. Everyone had their fill. We skipped dessert at the restaurant to check out Momofuku Milk Bar (LES) where I bought a compost cookie and Grasshopper Pie with a Candy Bar Pie to keep it company.
We finished our day at the Breslin next to the Ace Hotel, after taking the Young G to see Times Square for the first time.
Mr. T & I arrived at JFK in NY mid-afternoon. After the longest wait at the cabbie stand, followed by a traffic-filled journey, we arrived to the familiar apartment building in Chelsea. Comforting to return after six months and recognize the same doormen, though the name has changed and the building is undergoing a serious upgrade.
We wasted no time in our dinner search and bee-lined to The Spotted Pig. They warned of an hour wait, so I consulted the Google map I created for the trip. Employees Only was merely blocks away! A perfect place for refreshment, where we could while away the hour. I had the Ginger Smash (Ginger Smash Muddled Ginger Root & Fresh Kumquats shaken with Pueblo Viejo Blanco Tequila, Rhum Clement Creole Shrubb & Fresh Lime Juice, served over ice) and he had the Ruby Tuesday (Wild Turkey Rye shaken with Benedictine, Fresh Lemon Juice & pureed Black Cherries). Perfect start to New York.
Back at the Spotted Pig, we ordered the pot of pickles (of course), the char-grilled burger (delicious, as friends advertised), and sheep’s milk ricotta gnudi with brown butter & sage. I’m a sucker for browned butter!
A friend is one of chefs at the new Little Water Cantina in Eastlake. When Rocky suggested we get together to discuss our upcoming NYC visit, it seemed a great opportunity to pay our first visit since he knows her too.
We tried the salsa, guacamole, mochomos, rockfish tacos, and the chili-chocolate cookie sundae. We couldn’t get enough of the salsa, guac, or tacos. We’ll be back to take advantage of the deck. Bonus: tons of Rocky wisdom for our upcoming voyage to the East Coast!
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