SPRING IN NEW YORK CITY
A long weekend in New York in Spring. Pure bliss.
New York will always have a special place in my heart. In college, we would take the train from Rutgers into the city and go dancing at the Limelight, see concerts, and drink Long Island Iced Teas in the Village. In 2003 for a couple of years, Ross and I were living the DINK (double income, no kids) life, and I was working in global communications for New York Life International. We rented a renovated one bedroom apartment in the East Village on 2nd Avenue, that also had one single drawer in the kitchen and bathroom so tight that you couldn't turn around easily. However, living and working in Manhattan was nothing short of incredible, and now more than ten years later, we continue to go back to New York as visitors.
This past month, our visit to New York came through an opportune scheduling where our daughter had a long weekend off from school and Ross had a training scheduled. A few thousand Visa Infinite points later, we were on a direct flight from Calgary to Newark.
Newark airport sits in New Jersey and was only 20 minutes from our first stop for two nights, the home of a colleague of Ross and our dear British friends who we knew from Melbourne, but now live in Chatham, New Jersey with their teenage son and pre-teen daughter. Their home is magnficient, a four story suburban masterperpiece that is straight out of Vogue Living.
We arrived after nine in the evening, and Pam had cheeses, antipasti, and chilled champagne waiting for us. We hadn't caught up in about a year, since we saw eachother last in Cape Town. Pam's husband, Jonathan, arrived a few hours later from his work trip to Prague. More champagne and snacks, including the most delectable little Spanish pastry cakes, Ines Rosales Tortas de Aceite. Crispy layers of sugary pastry, individually wrapped...I must find them here in Calgary.
We retired and slept soundly in the guest wing of the house.
In the morning, we enjoyed a breakfast of warmed croissants and fresh cold-pressed vegetable juice. These friends of ours are professional hosts, so incredibly generous. After a leisurely morning, we headed over to The Mall at Short Hills for lunch and shopping. Craziness at the restaurant, Joe's American Bar & Grill, but we managed to satiate ourselves with chopped salads, burgers, fajitas, and crabcakes. Our shopping time was limited to only an hour, and we managed to aquire some new bag beauties from Saint Laurent and Gucci. (Shopping tip: 7% sales tax in New Jersey versus 8.85% in New York City.)
A quick Uber ride home and we were rushing to get ready to head into Manhattan for drinks and dinner. Traffic was slow all the way, but once we arrived at our drop-off in the city, I forgot about it all. The positive energy was almost instantaneous when we stepped out of the car. It was 7pm, the sun was still shining, and beautiful people were everywhere.
The theme of beautiful people carried on as we stepped into the Top of the Standard, a rooftop bar situated high above Manhattan on the High Line. The hostesses were probably models/students/actressses and their gold dress uniforms barely covered their slim torsos. The male bartenders were dressed in white jackets with gold buttons; they had groomed mustaches and looked like they stepped straight out of Harry's Bar in Venice. Only the very chic and sophisticated were here, we were definately not at TGIF's. The place sparkled with sunlight pouring in and the city skyline in front of us. Two rounds of cocktails later and we headed off to dinner.
Perry Street Restaurant sits at the very end of Perry Street in the West Village, at the edge of Manhattan on the corner of West Street. Owned by haute cuisine culinary great, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the Chef de Cuisine is none other than his talented son, Cedric Vongerichten. In its glory days, Perry Street earned a Michelin star, but in my eyes, it remains an excquisite experience and well worth the calories.
We selected the five-course tasting menu (US$88 per person), a gourmand's delight including tuna tartare, lobster thermidor, roast duck, and chocolate pudding. Service was impeccable and timed well. Each course had a hint of chili and heat, perhaps not for everyone, but worked well for us. More cocktails, wine, food, and more drinks.
After dinner, we stepped out and as per New York, it was still bustling with activity, so of course we couldn't go back to New Jersey quite yet. More drinks, this time in a small bar in the Village where we were probably the oldest patrons. Fresh from Wall Street and a workout at SoulCycle, the young professionals smiled as they drank their beers and cocktails. Everyone seemed so happy, there's no evidence of an oil crisis in New York. Back in New Jersey, we had a nightcap of Nikka Whiskey, a Japanese treat that is light and so very smooth.
Sunday morning we started with a classic breakfast at the Summit Diner. Pancakes, corned beef hash, fried eggs, it was all good. Then goodbyes to our British friends and into the city for Team Middleton.
After checking in to our hotel, Langham Place, we walked uptown on Fifth Avenue to Central Park where Clara and I met up with three of my very best girlfriends from high school, along with their daughters who made a special trip to New York for a visit. Unfortunately, I was overscheduled and I wasn't able to get into the city earlier and spend more time with them. The day was idyllic Central Park, the lawns covered with sun worshipers on blankets and activity everywhere. I saw that disco rollerskating is still a thing in Central Park and anyone is welcome. Up at the lake, canoes floated by with couples and our girls enjoyed their snow cones.
After a brief, but sweet visit with my girlfriends, Clara and I reunited with Ross who spent the afternoon at the Met. Walking back to our hotel took us through Times Square and Bryant Park. Despite global security concerns, New York's busiest tourist spots felt safe, and busier than ever.
Without any lunch, we were famished and had dinner plans at Beauty & Essex in the Lower East Side. This is a gem of a restuarant, with small plates made for sharing. Highlights for us: hand cut steak tartare; grilled peach and housemade ricotta on toast; grilled cheese, smoked bacon and tomato soup dumplings; orange glazed baby carrots; and the pressed jerk-spiced chicken with polenta. Full bellies, we collapsed.
Conference calls all morning for Ross, then we headed out for a takeaway sushi lunch from the market at Grand Central Terminal which we took to Bryant Park. With free tables everywhere, it is a popular spot for everyone on their lunch break. Next stop was coffee, then to the top of the Empire State Building. No lines at all that Monday in April, we sailed through ticket sales and were up at the 86th floor open-air observatory deck in under 15 minutes. The city's scale is evident when you are at this vantage point, impressive to anyone.
After our tourist stop, we headed downtown for a walk and shop around SoHo. Ross took Clara for a slice of pizza and I picked up a few new pieces: a Rodarte sweatshirt at Opening Ceremony, a cold shoulder top at Derek Lam 10 Crosby, and a leopard print dress at A.P.C.
Our Monday dinner was a mommy-daughter date at Blue Smoke while Ross had a work dinner. After taking our order, which was a complete indulgence in southern food, the server brought some uncooked sugar cookie dough that was cut out as a pig shape, along with sprinkles to decorate. The idea is that you decorate it while you wait, then they bake it and give it to you at the end of the meal in a take home bag. Such a nice treat and different than the usual crayons and paper. Dinner was a treat, bbq ribs, fried southern chicken, and corn bread. Founder Danny Meyer, gets comfort food right at this spot and his other properties: Shake Shack, Union Square Cafe, Grammercy Tavern, and a few others are all New York foodie favourites.
While Ross was at his training all day, I took Clara out for the day. First stop was breakfast with an old college friend at Maison Kayser on Bryant Park. For twenty years he has lived in the city, now married with two school-age kids. Over eggs and lattes we caught up and his account of living in New York City reminded me that it is expensive, even for a hedge fund manager like himself. His rent is $100K, school fees are $90K, and parking is $20K. Don't feel sorry for him though, he owns a property in Utah for skiing and a summer home on the Jersey Shore, while also driving a German sports car. Outside of us being grown ups now, he still makes me laugh and it was like being 19 all over again.
After breakfast, it looked like a rainy day was upon us, so Clara and I hopped on the B-line uptown to the American Museum of Natural History. This was on Clara's must-do list, mainly because A Night at the Museum was filmed there. We arrived before the rush and we seemed to walk straight in. If you haven't visited, it's an incredible collection, much like New York's version of the Louvre without paintings.
After walking around, we taxied to lunch at Hillstone in the New York Life building, which was sweet nostalgia for me. Hillstone recently got an incredible write up in the March 2016 Bon Appetit Magazine, and I had to try it. Clara had a burger and fries and I had the French Dip, which is apparently David Chang of Momofuku's go-to. Maybe we were on an off day, but it wasn't as exceptional as I expected. The au jus was room temperature and the sandwich was greasy. Great service though and it felt very New York. After lunch I walked Clara through the lobby of my old building, gilded in gold with a marble floor and columns. I loved working there and it was special to show my daughter a piece of my past before she was born.
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped in at Macy's in Herald Square and went straight to the kid's department and picked up a few new summer pieces for Clara. So much choice, it was overwhelming. Then a run in the rain and we took hot showers before heading out again for our last dinner.
Dinner was downtown, where we joined another college friend of mine and his wife at Timna, an Israeli-Mediterrean restaurant in the East Village. Having grown up pre-Facebook, it wasn't easy to keep in touch with all my college friends, but those I knew well, we always have time for one another. We shared platters of octopus, tuna sashimi, Kubaneh bread, roasted cauliflower, sweetbreads, duck, and incredible desserts. It's a small restaurant that turns out food that is thoughtful, ultra fresh and truly delicious. I was very happy to see that Israeli cuisine is more than hummus and pita.
A final treat for our final night were tickets to the 8pm show of The Blue Man Group. It's an experiential stage production, that is entertaining for seniors, adults and children. Shows are also in Chicago, Las Vegas, Boston, and Orlando. Tickets always sell out, even though it's been going for 25 years. If you're in New York, and want to see a live show that works for the whole family, The Blue Man Group is ideal.
Another full day of family fun and a weekend of memory making, thank you New York.
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