Month of Travel: New York, Part 2

The cavorting continues… (see Part 1)

Day 3: All Around Again

Deanna, John, and I all sleep in to recover from the dancing and late-night pizza. Around 11am, we make our way to vegetarian hot-spot, Dirt Candy, where we meet up with a friend of Deanna’s. Cyn is a Dirt Candy fanatic and has literally had everything on the menu. I’m not a big brunch person, but that’s the only reservation I could get. And lucky for me, Dirt Candy’s brunch offers the range of options from savory to sweet. I decide to order everything involving beets:  beet juice mimosa, beet coffeecake,  and a beet reuben. I also try, from everyone else’s plates, the red pepper fritters and some biscuits — all so good! Now more than ever, I want to go there for dinner!

Deanna heads off to do a few errands, while John and I board a bus north on the Bowery from the light bulb district to the Flatiron district. Over the last two days, John and I have seen posters everywhere for Night Fever: New York Disco 1977–1979, The Bill Bernstein Photographs. It’s a free exhibit at the Museum of Sex and we’ve got little else to do, so we brave the crowd of college students and bachelorette partiers. The gallery is outfitted like a disco with lights and pumping music:  “It’s Raining Men” incites a rowdy group of 50s-ish women to squeal with delight. The photographs mainly feature nude, intoxicated people on roller skaters, covered in glitter. However, we do leave with an appreciation of the disco scene’s inclusivity and diversity.

Snow is falling, so we quickly devise a plan to see the Nomad Hotel’s famous Library Bar. We don’t have a drink, but merely peek in to confirm that indeed it looks just like the pictures.

We take another short walk to the eternally crowded Eataly, where we marvel at Italian beers and impossible pasta shapes. I buy a few chocolates.

As the snow falls harder, we try to find somewhere to pass some time and keep warm. We walk down Fifth Avenue and stop in a few shops along the way. Dough, a place on my donut list, isn’t far, so we turn down 19th and discover Bottlerocket, a cute wine shop. At Dough, all the seats are taken by people who have long since finished eating, but can’t bring themselves to go out in the snow. John and I share one of the mammoth donuts — so heavy and cakey it’s almost meaty — and shuffle on, a little disappointed.

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Directionless, across from a church, we huddle under scaffolding. There’s not enough time to visit the Merchant’s House Museum, so I quickly look to see what jazz clubs in not-too-far-away Greenwich Village have music happening right this instant. Smalls Jazz Club turns out to be the perfect spot to hole up on a cold, windy, snowy day. John opens the door and I follow the carpeted staircase down to the doorman, like a friendly Charon transporting us to a musical underworld. It’s a cheap cover (so was crossing the River Styx) and we’re lucky to get two stools near the back. The trio, led by Jonathan Thomas, enthralls us and we stay for a bit of the jam session that follows. It’s instrumentalists only and just one woman, a small lady dominated by her baritone sax. Around 6pm, as it starts to get crowded, we depart and climb the stairs up to a world where the snow has stopped.

Back in Brooklyn, we relax with Deanna. She introduces us to the wonders of GrubHub, which yields delicious pasta and risotto delivered to the door, while we introduce her to the delights of The IT Crowd, a British comedy that yields much laughter. It may be New York on a Saturday night, but we are all happy to be together and out of the weather.

Day 4: South Street Seaport to Chelsea

I made plans to meet a friend for breakfast at the Bagel Pub, but somehow our texts got crossed and one of us ended up at the wrong location. John and I enjoy our bagels immensely, but I feel badly that the promise of a meet-up fell to naught. We take a short subway ride and end up in the Financial District. Trinity Church is especially beautiful in the snow.

Trinity Church

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At South Street Seaport, the sun feels so good. I drink my tea until — at last — it’s time for the Audubon Society Eco-Cruise! A friend of Deanna’s leads the 2-hour tour on a NY Water Taxi. We travel through the New York Harbor and out past the Verrazano Narrows. There on a small rocky island, we spot 15 seals! We can only see them through binoculars, but the sight is glorious. Shaped like gray bananas, they lie in the sun and look across at us.

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Back on land at 2pm, John and I seek out lunch at the Dead Rabbit, named “The World’s Best Bar 2016” (more on that). Quiet and laid-back, the Dead Rabbit offers delightful cocktails, including the best Irish coffee ever, and excellent food. I love my pisco punch and our meals — mushroom gnocchi and a scotch egg — rank up there as some of the best restaurant food we’ve ever had.

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We aim to visit the Whitney Museum of American Art, but subway maintenance confounds us. Walking from Union Square, we realize that the Museum closes in less than 2 hours — not enough time to walk there and enjoy the exhibits. As we pass by the Donut Pub, another on my list, we pause to regroup and elevate our blood sugar. Now these are classic, perfectly executed cake donuts! At the recommendation of two girls eating near the cash register, we buy one yeast donut topped with Fruity Pebbles.

John and I pick up the food hall thread and visit both Gansevoort Market and Chelsea Market, two places where we can be warm and walk around. I like small Gansevoort Market and would like to go back when I’m not stuffed. Chelsea always feels too crowded with churning crowds, but I do like the clothing and craft shops there. John and I stop to examine a quirky scarf with pockets, made from recycled men’s suits. Surprise, surprise, this handmade, unique item is a bit out of our price range.

At last we arrive back in Brooklyn. For dinner, Deanna invites a friend to meet us at a nearby pub. We are content with another low-key evening before having to head home the next morning. John and I share that Fruity Pebbles donut for dessert. Mmm, sugar.

What a splendid four days! Thanks to Deanna for hosting us!

Notes for Next Time

Here’s an outline:

See: The Whitney, a house museum (like Merchant’s House), a show

Do: Coney Island

Eat: Pondicheri, Dirt Candy for dinner

So many good places to revisit!

That Toddlin’ Town

I needed to be in Chicago for work. It was my first visit to the city and I felt a tenuous connection to it on account of my grandmother’s family having immigrated there from the Old Country. John joined me for the trip and I did my usual fanatical planning. With the historic low temperatures sweeping through the country the very same weekend we were there, we may not have gotten to explore much, but we experienced enough to know we want to go back (just not when it’s -15°F).

Ice on the Chicago River. No wonder I had the first song in Schubert’s Winterreise stuck in my head.

I arrived two days before John so I could take care of my work commitments. On Thursday night, a coworker and I ate at Gino’s East and enjoyed a small, but very filling deep dish pizza. I’m not sure why some people hate deep dish pizza. Gino’s pie was delightfully saucy, packed with veggies, and oozing with cheese. The following night the same coworker and I ventured out into the cold to search for dinner. It was Friday and every dang place was packed! We started trudging back toward the hotel on E Wacker when we saw the marquee for Harry Caray’s. We found ourselves delightfully surprised:  there was no wait for a table, the dining room was quiet and had an old tiled floor, and Frank Sinatra reigned supreme in terms of the music selection. The waiter was speedy, but courteous: endearingly, it seemed like he was stuck in high gear even though there were only a few tables with patrons. I tried a local beer, which I’m happy to call a personal favorite (but who knows when I’ll ever get to drink it again): 5 Lizard by the 5 Rabbit Cerveceria. The food was good and we left happy!

If only it were warm . . . I feel I could wander here for days.

On Saturday, John arrived and we set out for the Art Institute, a world-class museum with excellent collections in so many different areas. The Impressionist paintings and Decorative Arts collections were exquisite.

We didn’t see the famous Picasso statue, but we did pay our respects to “the bean.”

We ate lunch at Chuck’s, inside the gorgeous Union Carbide and Carbon building. I won big again with Revolution’s Wit Beer; the art on the can was as awesome as the beer.

The elevator inside the Union Carbide and Carbon building

I had to work in the evening, so John went out on his own and meet “Old Chub”:

A Scottish style ale by Colorado’s Oskar Blues

We had a late, late dinner at The Purple Pig, where — surprisingly — the vegetable dishes blew our minds. Move over mortadella, the cauliflower with cornichons and parsley changed my “meh” opinion of this humblest member of the brassicaceae family. The Purple Pig also had an impressive wine list which featured a great selection of Greek wines! I tried a soft Cretan red.

On Sunday morning, I was tired and a little grumpy — ready to be done with my work (helping to run a booth at a conference). Thankfully, John had procured “breakfast”:  six decadent and fabulous donuts (we ate them over a few days) from Glazed and Infused.

The chocolate was my favorite with the red velvet and its cream cheese icing coming in second.

By late morning, the conference booth was packed up and I could go out. John and I bundled up and took a warm ride on the elevated train.

A much older system than what I’m used to in DC, but the outdoor stations have heat lamps!

We disembarked at Morgan-Lake and slowly walked through the snow and wind to Randolph Street, a hot bed of good restaurants. We ended up at the laid back Haymarket Pub and Brewery where I had fun trying different beers in 4oz. glasses. John had a sausage sampler platter and I had good vegetarian chili and delicious charred brussels sprouts.

On the way back to downtown, we stopped at Pastoral, a small wine and cheese market, where we bought a few items to enjoy in the afternoon. The baguette was perfect and we loved the firm O’Cooch Mountain cheese from Wisconsin (John picked out some crazy blue that he loved and I tried to ignore).

In the afternoon, we walked along Lower Wacker, where the lack of snow made for brisker walking and a warmer walk.

View from die Unter-Wacker (the name lends itself to a Germanism)

We walked up Michigan Avenue and took the elevator up to the 96th floor of the John Hancock Building. At the Signature Lounge, we had a chance to relax, warm up, and ogle the beauty of Chicago in the snow.

The view from our table–looking west
View from the women’s bathroom–looking south
John Hancock building

By Sunday night, it started to get very cold. We hung out with a friend in the lobby of the hotel and later John ran out to get a pizza from Giordano’s. He didn’t know that it was a stuffed pizza so he had quite a surprise when he picked it up and the thing weighed a couple pounds. There was no way we could eat it all, so the leftovers came in handy for breakfast the next morning. (Since we came back we’re having light meals like quinoa, tofu, and broccoli.)

Monday was even colder! Chicago schools and universities were closed; the subway wasn’t running in some areas; so many of the conference-goers were stranded. We knew we couldn’t stay in the hotel all day. I’d already finished the book I brought to read!

Frost on the inside of our hotel window!

John was looking up things to do and places to go when he came across mention of Chicago’s pedway, underground mall/pedestrian tunnel. We realized the pedway connected to our hotel and our spirits lifted. It felt great to be walking around, even though we were pretty disoriented as we traveled through buildings — on ground level and below. We made it to the Chicago Cultural Center, the former public library, (0.4 miles from the hotel) and only had to be outside once! We could have gone further on the pedway, but visiting the Cultural Center cured our itch to get out a look around. The building was something else:

Completed in 1897 (same year as the Library of Congress’ Jefferson building)
LOC doesn’t have a Tiffany dome
“the world’s largest stained glass Tiffany dome ― 38 feet in diameter with some 30,000 pieces of glass” Cultural Center website

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at Sweetwater for a drink, where we learned about the pedway pub crawl (we’ll have to save that for another time). I enjoyed Two Brothers – Ebel’s Weiss with its delicious hint of banana. That evening we hung out with my officemate, whose Sunday and Monday flights had been canceled. The three of us walked a short way on the pedway to the Khyber Pass, where we had tasty Indian food. I was happy to stay warm inside that evening.

On Tuesday our plane miraculously departed on time and we made it home without any trouble. It’s such a short flight that there’s really no excuse not to go back and see more of Chicago. Plus, I need to give John another opportunity to sing loudly, at random: “It’s my kind of town!”