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!
Sorry for such long delays, dear readers. Turns out, this new thing I’m doing takes up a whole lotta daytime hours. I have high hopes to get all caught up…I still take pictures everyday.
So. Where were we? Oh, yes, NYC.
Then, we 3 walked through the Lower East Side to the East Village to SoHo to the West Village & Greenwich over to the High Line before heading back to the apartment. I think we clocked somewhere around five miles in the sunshine and 70 degrees.
Oh, and we saw puppies in Greenwich Village. Always a bonus.
For a brief hour there as we were thwarted through bridge closures and rough traffic, it nearly appeared we’d become overnight refugees in the city. But, we made it to JFK just in time for sunset and our departure home to Seattle.
Patriotism in the L.E.S.
Amelia & Leit met me in Chelsea for breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien. Once upon a time, I traveled with Amelia to Uruguay after meeting up in Buenos Aires. It was good to catch up with all that’s happened since — back then, she’d only just met the person who later became her husband!
How many smurfs had to die so I could wear this blue hat at C21? Photo by Kate
Next, I tracked down Kate & Colleague at Century 21 in Lower Manhattan. They were spending time shopping ’til their flights mid-afternoon, so I joined them. I have to say, nothing restores your faith in America & capitalism quite like seeing what goes in there, across the street from the WTC site.
We trekked over to Soho & the L.E.S., ending up at Russ & Daughters, masters of salmon, and a few shops down — Yonah Shimmel, purveyor of knish. Russ & Daughter’s pastrami smoked salmon on a flagel with the works was not unlike a religious experience for me. This shiksa was in love.
Time had slipped away from us & my two companions now needed to get on the road. I was sad to say good-bye and joked that if something happened to their travel plans, we have a couch!
Now solo, I decided it was time to get some culcha at the Tenement Musuem, but I was gonna incorporate this with finishing an L.E.S. food tour I found on Chow.com (I’d already covered Yonah and Russ & D). I went off official itinerary quickly, as the first thing I found was the Doughnut Plant — long ago recommended by Frank. I bought goodies for later, where I’d decide these are THE BEST ANYWHERE. A sample of flavors:
Next stop: Kossar’s Bialys. I still prefer bagels, but I wanted to get these at the source to judge my opinion. As I was exiting, I turned to see: The Pickle Guys. Now those who really know my food preferences (hi, Mom!) know that at this point, I probably heard angels singing. I might have a bit of a problem but it started way back in preschool. I love them. I buy a lot of pickles, like most foodies buy kinds of mustard. But it usually feels like every week, the recycling bin gets fresh empty jars from me, so it’s not like I save the good ones for someday. Part of a healthy diet, at only 5 calories each! Let’s not talk about the sodium. Who cares about sodium when all those other grams and food stats are hard enough to keep track of??? Anyhow, I selected a representative sampling of their offerings, and they totally threw in more for free.
Ok, back on track. I reached the Tenement Museum and realized they were going to require a few hours of my time for the official tour. I decided…next time, and started walking north with a vague idea of catching the subway or preferably, a cab, to the MOMA. Before that, I wanted to try a chocolate egg cream and went in this little recommended place. It was weird, but hey, I’d just had pickles.
And so I kept moving up 2nd, hoping for a cab but we’d entered that Friday afternoon hour in NYC where none of those cabbies would pull over and if they did, shook their heads when I said, “55th?” Exhausted, I continued to Union Square to catch a train to MOMA. I made it, but a glance into the museum confirmed today was not my museum day. I was tuckered out and knew I’d just hate humanity if I battled the crowds. Plus I had reservations at Sushi Gari in only 2 hours (recommended by Kate after her Wednesday dinner), so maybe heading home was my best bet.
When I consulted my phone to recalculate directions, I realized there was a missed call while I was in the subway! The Delta agents at JFK were complete asshats to Kate and wouldn’t let her get on a flight. At JFK, it turns out, you must check in your bags at 60 minutes and she was at 56, after battling traffic all across NYC. Time for a houseguest!!! I know she was frustrated to not get on that flight, but I was so excited we had her with us for one more day. The only issue was getting her a key — but Mr. T went to our building security, added her to our account, and got her clearance as she made her way back to Manhattan. We raced north to our reservations at Sushi of Gari 46.
So: I shy away from declaring a place the best, because things change so quickly and can be so dependent on the chef, but Sushi of Gari 46 is the best sushi I have ever had in my life! We sat at the bar for omakase and I took notes. 21 rounds of notes. I knew 2 rounds in that this was the pinnacle, and brushed aside any notions of moderation. The cost of abandoning moderation was high, but you only live once. P.S. Mr. T told the chef “uncle” a couple of rounds before me. My DimSumCouver training was coming in handy!
Afterward, we met with Kate and took her to one of our favorite finds from before her arrival: The Breslin at The Ace Hotel, mentioned last week. This would put us all in the right frame of mind to polish off the doughnuts found at the Plant earlier today.
Today was very New Yorkish. I:
-got caught up in Veteran’s parade-watching crowds
-had lunch with a good friend, a native New Yorker who’s returned since finishing her grad school at UW
-walked through Central Park to take in the foliage
-took the train up to the Bronx, where I got lost after taking the wrong exit to get to The Cloisters
-took an impromptu walking tour of Washington Heights
-wandered the grounds of Fort Tryon Park, the Heather Garden & The Cloisters
-found the unicorn that was missing, maybe?
-had dinner of remarkable black garlic ramen at Hide Chen
-visited Kate in her fancy Scandinavian-themed place near the north-eastern edges of midtown
-walked all the way home via 5th Avenue to Flatiron/Chelsea
I wasn’t getting anywhere trying to talk Mr. T into catching any Broadway shows, so I decided early to plan to hit a matinee midweek. Today, I saw Elling. Turns out, it was all Hollywood: Brendan Fraser, Denis O’Hare, and Jennifer Cooper (‘memba her from Legally Blonde? Or Best In Show?). It was a pleasant mid-afternoon diversion, though I discovered later why the storyline seemed familiar when Mr. T reminded me we’d watched the Norwegian film years ago. P.S. I relearned during intermission Fraser attended Cornish back in the day. Go Seattle!
When the play let out, I walked for a while to The High Line which is getting tons of well-deserved 2010 press. I later learned those who did the High Line won the bid for Seattle’s waterfront. I’m taking this as spectacular news.
I watched the sun set over Jersey. And plotted for dinner late that evening at Artichoke Basille, another NY pizza place.
Post-dinner, Kate & Colleague were available to join us at Death & Company where the drinks were divine.
Encouraged by a friend‘s good experience at Eleven Madison Park on Monday, I followed suit today. Everything about the three-hour experience was on point. One can select either four or five ingredients from the menu — I chose four. Four courses turned into more and I wished I’d remembered the advice to forgo breakfast. Thank goodness my friend takes marvelous pictures and catalogs them so well — I was able to gather images of the dishes we had in common into a gallery that you can view on Flickr here. If you want to see more of his work, he’s got a great FoodPr0n 2010 set, amongst others.
As I was bursting at the seams and more full than I could ever remember, I laced up my running shoes and hit the road for a bit. Six miles to be exact. I charted a course from Chelsea to the South Street Seaport’s TKTS booth where I could pick up a solo ticket to a Wednesday Broadway matinee. I didn’t time the run so well. By the time I reached lower Manhattan, I felt like a salmon running upstream against all the bankers after the closing bell. At the ticket booth, I settled on a show called Elling. The seller told me these were my best choice — a single seat at only 8 rows back from stage. I also liked that the story was set in Norway, where one side of Mr. T’s family originated.
I ran back & got ready for dinner with Mr. T at Rye House. I’d found my selection based on a sandwich guide I’d read before I’d even gone to lunch today — the Pittsburgh. When it arrived on my plate, I realized what I’d gotten myself into: andouille sausage on rye with coleslaw and french fries INSIDE the sandwich. I took a picture to submit to “This is Why You’re Fat.” It was delicious & too much after the lunch I’d had, but I squirreled most away for a Wednesday morning brekkie. We also checked out some of their other Rye offerings.
Then, my friend Kate arrived in town with her colleagues! We met up with them at an izakaya called Sake Bar Hagi near Times Square. I had zero interest in eating, but from what I saw, it’s a place I’d recommend and return to on future visits.
I ended up working so much today that I didn’t eat until 3PM. What? Fortunately, our apartment was a few blocks west of the over-publicized Shake Shack. As a Burger of the Month Club devotay, I had to check it out. I ordered a regular cheeseburger, and picked up a Pumpkin Concrete for Mr. T. It was basically pumpkin pie mixed up with ice cream. Burger was very good. To reward my diligent work, I also picked up a Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate thing they had going on. Then, I worked some more.
Once Mr. T finished with his work, we decided to check out a local pizza place, recommended by a New Yorker friend as a solid neighborhood chain. We ordered pizza with pepperoni and their Insalata Siciliana. I don’t think Mr. T was as impressed with it as I was, but I liked how much I felt like we were off the beaten traveler path…almost the opposite of exotic: comfortable.
Then we walked home through Chelsea.
Essentially, we began our day by walking to the Bowery for DBGB Kitchen and Bar. For all my plans of having brunch, I went with a fancy hot dog called the DGBG Dog (from their sausage menu). I dunno, it just felt right. The sausage was made at DBGB and came with their “299″ relish. Good. It even showed up on a porcelain hot dog tray. Mr. T went a traditional route with Oeuf Forestiere — “two eggs “en cocotte” with wild mushrooms, gruyere & fines herbes.”
We walked a few miles back to our place, pausing briefly before walking north through Times Square to spectate at the NYC Marathon finish line.
Being in Central Park had us in the right location to check out H&H, a NYC institution of the kind Mr. T missed on prior visits: bagels in situ. Total honesty here — between the indifferent staff and an average-tasting bagel, they didn’t seem to have much worth writing home about. It was much like our underwhelming pizza experience here in 2005. It just didn’t happen. I preferred comparing & contrasting potato vs. sweet potato knish at Zabar’s more. (Fortunately, better bagels appeared later in the week.)
We kept walking to regain some sort of appetite before walking MORE to Locanda Verde, in Tribeca. And at this point, I’ll yield on commentary to point you in the direction of the blog post written by my friend, The Gastrognome, who recommended LV to us. We really enjoyed it, as she did.
Then, we cabbed it home. I say we deserved that after logging over 10 miles for the day.
Mr. T & I flew to NYC this morning, landing mid-day. First stop: the massive & impressive new Eataly, Batali’s new Italian food emporium. It was only two blocks from our place in Chelsea and held us over for a few hours.
For dinner, we visited The Breslin, a new establishment next to the Ace Hotel & Stumptown Coffee. (Pacific Northwest REPRESENT!) We were drawn in by the spectacular Garden Tonic, but that Lamb Burger is worth making room & time for in any visit to the city. Our window seat had a view of the Empire State Building, from the south side. The Breslin’s on West 29th, not far from Broadway.
We took the super long way home, heading north by 20 blocks to see what Times Square is up to these days.
over Sara’s island
A long layover gave us just enough time for dinner in Manhattan. We scored the last walk-in table at Babbo (with plenty of backup options thanks to friends’ suggestions). Amazing braised oxtail gnocchi, black spaghetti with rock shrimp & spicy salami Calabrese, bufa di mozzarella, a special season item of contorni of ramps, grilled octopus with limoncello vinaigrette: fantastic meal. We wrapped it up with chocolate hazelnut cake with orange sauce and hazelnut gelato. The perfect way to ensure 7 hours of hibernation. I noticed Seattle’s Salumi on the menu as well.
Once finished, we wandered back to JFK via the convenient West 4th stop nearby.
I really really love NY.
To borrow from notmartha:
Things I Learned the Hard Way
AirTrain’s great for quick transit from JFK, but watch out for the subway connections. We hit a snag trying to catch the E from Jamaica Station, which was closed for the weekend. Better to have taken the LIRR and transfer again at Penn Station, rather than ended up on the slow NYC bus “shuttle” through neighborhoods of Queens.
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