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New York 2010 Archives

October 22, 2010

Early morning-- Manhattan

I'm up early this morning, taking pictures out our 9th floor window. The light is subtle and the brick buildings are full of architectural detail.

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We are at the Andaz Hotel on 41st Street and 5th Avenue. Right across 5th from the beautiful library which is all lit up at night with designs. I'll have to find out what that's about.

Our flights went smoothly including the, what now seems requisite, time sitting in the plane on the tarmac, not moving. And then there was the rush to get our connection in Atlanta only to find it was, of course, delayed. We arrived in Newark only about a half hour late. Used Dial7 car service which was very easy and hitch-free.

At this hotel, there is really no front desk. You walk in and are greeted by a few people and one guy just said come this way. He had a little lap top computer and, after offering us each a glass of wine (Parducci Cabernet, not bad, at all) , he gave us our keys and took us upstairs.

We changed our clothes and hurried out to meet Vicki for dinner. Couldn't get a cab on 5th so we decided to walk. To 23rd and 2nd Ave. Bao Noodles. Great little place! We ate the yummy Vietnamese food--I wanted a pork Bhan mi sandwich because I'd never one before. Love it but after about 3 bites I deconstructed it and left the crusty French roll behind. I also ordered taro fries which came in a cute presentation in a paper cone inside a coffee can. The fries weren't crispy but they were garlicky, sweet and totally addictive. Ken had the special--Saigon Noodles. The broth was kind of bland and then he added a bit too much hot chili sauce. There were little hard boiled quail eggs, shrimp and squid in with the noodles. Vicki got "salt and pepper squid" which was really great. They drank Vietnamese beer and I had a nice light cold sake, I enjoyed. We went back to Vicki's apartment for a while but I was really crashing. We did get to meet the famous Binky, her inherited cat. Took a cab home.

One more building shot from our room:


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October 23, 2010

Friday in NYC


We got up pretty early and went to Grand Central Station just a couple of blocks away to get coffee. I had read that “Joe and the art of Coffee” is one of the best and I’d have to agree—even though they put a bit more milk into my macchiato than I like—the coffee was very good!
From there we went to the MOMA. We didn’t have to wait on line because I bought the tickets on line that morning. We started on the 5th floor to see the permanent collection. This was of experiencing art is a little crazy to me. There’s SO much to see! IT makes it hard to really experience anything but overload. What’s even more confounding is the folks who walk up to the Van Goghs, Picassos or the big Jackson Pollack, take a quick photograph and move on.
I most enjoyed the famous Marc Chagall Village painting and an abstract series of 4 Kandinskys. There is just too much!

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We went up to Vicki’s office and hung out there for a while until she could leave for lunch. Here's the view from her office window:


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We found Ken some really great noodles this time at Menchenko on 55th street.

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Vicki and I shared some stir fried noodle with seafood and fish balls which came with their own delicious broth. The place was packed but we didn’t have to wait very long since we came in at 1:30. After lunch we went to Zibetto for a quick espresso—the place is very Italian but I think the coffee was really better at Joes.

Next we walked into Central Park for a little stroll. It was really too cold in the shade for us so we didn’t stay long.

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We walked back along 5th Ave, stopping into H&M for a bit of shopping.

Came back to our quirky room at the Andaz and had a nice rest before dinner. I took some more photos out our window, looking out at 41st Street.

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We walked from here to Eleven Madison Park—straight down Madison Ave. The meal will have to have its own blog post. I took a few notes so maybe I will remember all the courses and treats.
It remains my favorite restaurant in the world. I can’t imagine any trip to the city without a dinner there.

We walked back—it seemed so much shorter than the going—flopped into the bed and went to sleep.

October 24, 2010

Saturday in the Big Apple

We went to breakfast at Pain Quotidein, right across from Bryant Park. You can order a bread basket with several types, butter and jams. It was interesting to taste all the different kinds; the coffee was pretty bad. From there we started walking downtown and a little east—down Lexington. I wanted to stop in at Kalustyan’s market and we did. They have every conceivable Indian spice or dried legume or jarred chutney or candy or dried fruit and a bunch of other “hard to find” ingredients. I could have stayed for an hour but Ken was quickly bored so I just bought some smoked sea salt and some incense and we were on our way.
Next stop was ABC carpet and home, an amazing store, where I had been before. I love to look at their linens in honor of my sister. Here’s a snap shot for you, Pat.

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Just about a block farther downtown is Union Square. We wandered through the vegetable, flower, meat and cheese stalls. Lots of pumpkins were for sale, and apples and mums were everywhere—definitely a Fall scene.

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We sat in Union Square Park for a while observing the cool and the crazy in abundance.
Took this of a great looking fire station:

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Then we started to cross town to the West Village to meet some family at Morandi. We got there about a half hour early for our 1:30 lunch reso so we sat in a tiny park right across the street. There were two volunteers there tending the garden and we talked to them about their labor of love maintaining the little oasis of natural beauty in the middle of the city.

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I haven’s seen my cousin Diane in, at least, 40 years. As we walked into the restaurant I looked around and didn’t see anyone who looked remotely familiar. I went to the bathroom where there was a short line. As I looked at back of the woman in front of me I knew it was Diane! I just said “hello” and she turned around and we hugged. I cried a lot through the lunch. It was so touching and wonderfully memorable to connect with her. Her husband, daughter, son in law and 85 year old aunt (who is also my cousin, Jane) came too. We finally got seated in the very noisy restaurant, all shared a bottle of Prosecco and a nice lunch. The food was fine but the company was priceless. We asked Jane some questions about the past. She is an amazingly modest woman and a wealth of information about other artists and the NY scene in the Bohemian days. After lunch, Diane, her husband, Fran, Ken and I took a cab up to 57th street to the gallery where Jane has 3 paintings hanging. We are all huge fans of her work and it was a thrill to see them on display.

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They walked us back to 42nd Street where they got the subway and we came back to our hotel for a little rest.

We had tickets for the play “Time Stands Still” starring Laura Linney. We sat in the second row. I was totally engrossed in the play but I found it depressing and just a little TOO real for an evenings entertainment. The acting was totally mind blowing. At one point Laura Linney sits at the edge of the stage, staring out, obviously remembering something. You see her face go from passive to sad to teary, in a minute, maybe even less, right in front of you.

To lift our mood afterwards, we went to the bar in the hotel and had a drink and snack. Came back to the room just in time to catch the 9th inning of the Giants winning the pennant over the Phillies.

October 25, 2010

Last Day in The City

What a wonderfully full day!
We started out riding the subway to 14th Street to meet the Slow Travel gang at the Grey Dog on 16th in Chelsea. We had a great breakfast and an equally great visit. Together, we all walked to Chelsea Market and then said goodbye. They were off to Eataly but, since we had gone in Torino, we chose to stay at Chelsea Market. I couldn’t resist the Italian place there—bought some salami and farro to take home. Then we went up to the High Line park and walked the whole thing. It was very pretty, with great views and interesting art installations (especially the one with all the bell sounds) and I was so sorry I had forgotten my camera.
We walked all the way back to our hotel from there, through Chelsea, past Penn Station and Madison Square Garden to Bryant Park. Standing on the corner we ran into Betsey and Bernie, friends from Tallahassee who are also here celebrating their anniversary. We sat, in the perfect Fall weather, near the fountain in Bryant Park for a while. I bought a sandwich at 'Wichcraft and took it back to our room. The Dolphins were on TV, so we had a little picnic in bed, watched football and napped.

In the late afternoon we took a walk, doing some window shopping, and I got some espresso at the slowest Starbucks on Earth,

We got into a cab and picked up Vicki on our way to China Town.
We got off right near the enterance to the Manhattan Bridge which goes over to Brooklyn:

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Strolling through the narrow streets feels like a whole new city. We went into a small market where noone, but one of the customers, spoke English. They sold some really unusual stuff there—live turtles and frogs in big buckets, lots of fish and fish organs of an unidentifiable sort. The truly weirdest thing was that they had partially skinned alligator feet—including the claws. Vicki bought one of the beautiful dragon fruit.

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view into a restaurant window:


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After looking in several restaurants, even walking into a big hall set up for a wedding, we decided to go to Dim Sum Go Go. We had some great dim sum—mushroom, Chineese parsley, duck and pork. There was a group of four men sitting at the next table who were eating a “Chinese Hot Pot” who were really great entertainment. We talked about getting another dish and finally decided to jump in a cab and go to Momofuku to have the pork buns. Of course, it was way too crowded so we walked, just a few blocks, to Ssam Bar, another David Chang place. We were seated right away. What a scene! The music is LOUD and intense. I got a glass of Gruner right away and we checked out the menu. Ken had the traditional (for Momofuku) pork buns—totally outrageously fine. I ordered the special pork bun, with crispy pork belly, tomato and smoked aoli; I only had one bite before it disappeared because Ken ate it. The menu is so interesting. Vicki had 6 oysters and they came with a little piece of kiwi on each one. And I had the fried duck necks. What a brilliant dish—the bowl is lined with the bright green garlic chive/anchovy sauce. The disks of corn on the cob are pickled as are the pretty red carrot strips on top.

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The duck necks are just plain fun to eat. I had another glass of wine, this time a red Rhone wine. The guy sitting right next to Ken had one of those booming voices and he talked a lot to his seemingly uninterested date. I just had to laugh. Between the nerdy guy with the loud voice and the blaring music we couldn’t hear each other at all. Resorting to sign language we finally got our check and emerged onto the “peaceful” New York street.

We walked to the subway and got out at Grand Central Station. Vicki showed us a place an upstairs "apartment" turned into a small, dark, plushly furnished bar. We almost stayed for a drink but thought better of it.

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Vicki came to see our quirky hotel room at the Andaz. We talked for a while eating the free Jacques Torres chocolate bar and drinking club soda.

A really great day!

November 7, 2010

Eleven Madison Park--My All Time Favorite Restaurant

I had eaten at EMP twice before and couldn't wait to get back there. It is the perfect special occasion place--not too stuffy and absolutely special.

First things first—open up the beautifully folded napkin and the small square menu is hiding underneath, like a surprise. Each dish is described by one word. Four choices for apps, first course, main and dessert.

I wanted a glass of something bubbly and the waiter gave me a taste which I rejected and tried another which I really though was off but was too embarrassed to say. (After a while, Ken told the sommelier and he brought me a glass of chenin blanc which was perfect.)

Immediately they brought a little basket with very small gougers—they were about the size of a large marble, light and subtly cheesy. There is a choice of bread and 2 types of butter at the perfect temperature—one is goat butter and the other just fabulous butter.

Then a cute, young, enthusiastic guy, wearing an apron, comes out (apparently they let the cooks come out and serve a few things) and gives us each a white, china espresso cup with chicken veloute and brioche toast with truffle butter. The veloute was one of the best things in the whole dinner, to me. Not too thick but so much chicken soupy flavor inside the perfect silky texture. It made me think—this is what kids go to cooking school to learn. The brioche toast was very light and the truffle butter was earthy with the expected flavor.

Next—a string of “complementary” amuses. Little smoked salmon flowers with caviar centers, hamachi (raw) and my favorite was egg shells filled with sturgeon zabaglione. I was a little foamy and yet very rich, with tiny chunks of the fish in it. Each bite was just delicious. At the very bottom was bright green chive oil, which kind of cleansed your palate. The dish was brilliant! There may have been another sturgeon plate.

For apps Ken got beets—they were of several colors and preparations—raw, cooked, pickled and artfully placed on the plate with a little cheese and greens. I had tuna—raw sushi style slices, quarter size discs of white potato and I don’t remember what else. First course --Ken’s lobster tailpiece was perfectly cooked. At presentation the waiter spooned a very light, almost foamy, sauce inside the curve the tail made on the plate. There were fresh celery leaves and a bunch of other components, too.
I had celery—which was cooked several ways including a large (3inch?) diameter disc of celery root puree. I loved the dish but it held the one disappointment of the meal. It was supposed to have a black truffle sauce and I could see them on the plate but they had absolutely zero flavor. Oh well.

For the entrée, we both got the pork. They were pretty pink, small chops—so tender. I can’t remember what else was on the plate except a lovely bit of sweet potato puree. We had switched to a red Rhone wine by then.

Dessert—Ken had “vanilla.” It was a picture perfect soufflé and the waiter added a quenelle of passion fruit ice cream into the center. I loved how confident this presentation was. Just the souflle—no nonsense. It may have been the best dessert I ever tasted and I’m not a huge vanilla fan. I chose apple. There were so many components but my favorite was the cider ice cream and all the combinations of flavors you could try with the little sauces all over the place.

More desserts came with coffee. The malt ice cream with olive oil was just a revelation. There was a pumpkin tuille with whipped cream, espresso cream filled beignets and a few others—I can’t read my skimpy notes.

After all that—they served us each a small glass of cognac, leaving the bottle on the table with an invitation to help ourselves to more.

The whole thing took about 3 hours. Another highlight was that the chef, Daniel Humm, came out of the kitchen and actually stopped at our table. I was pretty star- struck but I did shake his hand.

When we left they gave us a jar of homemade granola to take with us. Of course, it’s the best ever!


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