A couple of weeks ago, (the Pope &) I spent 8 days back home in NYC. I was in town for Customer Experience Council meetings, but I took some vacation days so I could enjoy being back in the city with my friends and my old life. Believe it or not, this post will be sans action shots because my Blackberry doesn't have a camera (yes, I'm a loser) and my camera was on the fritz. I think my friends were relieved as I've been on a bit of a tear the last couple of years. Everyone worries about getting stuck on my blog doing things they'd rather not remember. :) Warning: This is a very long post!
The first half of my trip, I stayed with my friend, Karen. Now that she is divorced from TOAD (see pic at left), she is so much happier which makes me happier, of course. Her partner in crime, David, came over to hang my first night in town--he and his family were the inspiration for one of my all-time fave shows, Six Feet Under. No surprise--he is hysterically funny.
We left him to check out his lovely new apartment (long story involving a dead man and his dog) and made our way to meet Karen's new BF for dinner at Etats-Unis Bar, a slice of the West Village on the Upper East Side. They have an eclectic casual menu focused on fresh, seasonal ingredients, that is much different from their more formal restaurant across the street. Don't miss their spicy guacamole and date pudding for dessert!
Sunday in NYC always, always starts with brunch. We chose to go to Morandi, the new rustic Italian trattoria from Keith McNally, the clever man who brought us Balthazar, Pastis, and Schiller's Liquor. We started with fried artichokes with lemon and then I dug into poached eggs over fava beans, artichokes and escarole. We were SO full, but couldn't pass up ricotta fritters for dessert. David took one on the road with him for his first trip on the Ikea bus. Although he did not buy any furniture, he did get several of their infamous blue bags!
Karen and I were now fueled up and ready to shop til we dropped. We hit a variety of shops in Nolita, including one of my favorites, bag (formerly called shoe, now up the street), where I found the perfect summer yellow purse, and we took a quick sake break at Chibi's. I had great success in Soho too at Bloomie's downtown and Max Studio. We stopped off at Te Casan, a very cool shoe store that is design and fashion-forward, focused mainly on limited-edition shoes, such as Natalie Portman's new shoe line for vegans. We had dinner at the exotic, Thai-fusion restaurant, Kittichai. Karen was craving their chocolate baby-back ribs and although I hadn't been to Kittichai in a few years, I did remember how beautiful the interior is and had a faint memory of delicious cocktails, so who was I to complain.
Monday was all about pampering myself. I slept late on the Aero Bed which was surprisingly comfy, played with Lily & Max, sipped coffee, danced around, and before I knew it, was a scant 15 minutes away from being late for lunch. I cabbed it down to L'Impero to meet Tara, a recruiter I used when I worked at A&E. I hadn't seen her in a long time and it was so nice to catch up. She's now heading up Jobplex at DHR International, one of the largest HR firms around. I had been hearing about this restaurant for years and it didn't disappoint, although the setting is much more formal than I expected. I started with an appetizer of sardines, buffalo mozzarella, roasted red peppers, and pesto. It was a lovely combination--a bit salty, sweet, and creamy. At lunch, you can get half orders of pasta, so I ordered Sardinian saffron pasta with crab, sea urchin and fresh tomato. It was the best pasta I'd had since I left NYC two years ago. I walked around town and then ended up at Sol Spa for my Korean scrub & massage appointment. (For those of you who haven't been paying attention, here is why I love Korean scrubs so much.) Met David and Karen for drinks at Lucy at ABC (one of my all-time favorite stores) and then off to The Modern for dinner.
Genius NYC restaurateur, Danny Meyer, did a Council call earlier this year I unfortunately missed. He was going to be speaking in person at the Council meetings though and as part of that, we got an email from Phil at the beginning of April saying we should book reservations for one of Danny's restaurants through his personal assistant and be prepared to give feedback. I chose The Modern at the MOMA since I'd never been and Phil highly recommended it.
We were in the dining room and by this point in the night, a bit on the rowdy side. I had just gotten my scrub, of course, and Karen and David couldn't stop touching the back of my neck. I have to admit it was smoooove. We had also had enough to drink that merely saying, "He-llo? Helloooooo? Hellooooooooooo?" to each other in a funny accent had us in stitches. The food was amazing though--sophisticated with a very light touch and we had the best time. And it was more than enough--I kept reading reviews that said the portions were small, but we didn't find that to be the case. In fact, there was dessert after the dessert course--cute little bon bons--and when David dropped one of the yummiest ones on the floor, they brought us an entire new tray! Even with our...um...boisterous behavior, Dino, the assistant manager of The Modern, welcomed us warmly and said he would see me on Wed at the Rainbow Room dinner later that week. As it turns out, he actually did remember me which was quite impressive, I thought, given the number of people he sees every day.
Tuesday brought a bit more shopping, lunch at Won Jo, one of my favorite restaurants in Koreatown, and eyebrow threading at Perfect Shape Threading Salon (seriously, if you have never done this, do it today--it is cheap, quick, and your eyebrows will never look better). Met a bunch of the old A&E crew at the Flatiron Lounge and then met two friends for dinner--Mary, formerly of HBO, now of MAINE(!), and Sarah, formerly of BabyCenter.com, now of Snapfish.com. Now that Le Tableau has closed (which I am so, so sad about), I figured Lucien would be a good spot to go. It's a perfect place to have fun conversation with friends and enjoy bistro fare--fish soup, salad, frites, wine. Afterwards, I met a friend at the Brandy Library (see pic at left) in Tribeca for a swanky nightcap. You can choose from over 900 bottles of spirits--an amazing selection. Ignore the sign on the outside claiming it's full. I strolled right in and got a comfy seat and it really wasn't all that crowded. I think they just do that to keep the riff-raff out (clearly, they failed in my case).
Wednesday it was back to work in the afternoon, so I spent the morning checking out of Hotel Stavisky and checking into the modern boutique Hotel QT. (How could I not choose to stay in a NYC hotel that has a swimming pool in the lobby? Plus, the beds here are amazing.) After our meetings, we had the Council's Annual Copernican Awards Event and Dinner at the Rainbow Room. At one point, I was sitting at my table and I heard someone yell my name "S-O Y-O-U-N-G"! I looked up and there was Dino from The Modern! I was so surprised he'd remembered me. Great guy and so friendly--he is perfect for the job he has.
A bunch of us went out afterwards and went to chill at Tillman's, a bit of Harlem in Chelsea with a vibe I really loved. Can't go wrong with Billie Holiday, classic cocktails, and one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches ever (get the French Onion one!). It's a bit hard to find--it's on the north side of the street at 165 26th between 6th and 7th. There's a doorman. Be nice and you won't have any problem. :) Marie & I stayed out a little longer, making it to Happy Ending for a drink (it's not what you think--this former Chinatown massage parlor is now a dance spot) and then the 24-hour meat-packing-district staple, Florent, for late-night frites.
Thursday was another full day of meetings. Afterwards, Councils 1 and 3 went bowling at Leisure Time Bowl, the bowling alley at Port Authority. The beer and pizza weren't great, but the company was, and furthermore, I bowled an awe-inspiring 76. Woohoo! So, no, I was not "Obama-bad." And then it happened. I was forced to go karaoking for the second time in my life. Several of us from Council 1 who will remain nameless to protect the not-so-innocent convened at Sing Sing, an East Village karaoke bar on St. Marks Place. We got a private room and spent hours doing truly unforgettable renditions of everything from The Cars' "Good Times Roll" and The Human League's "Don't You Want Me," to "Puff the Magic Dragon," "Baby Got Back," "London Bridge," Iron Maiden's "Run for the Hills," "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," "Ring of Fire," "Electric Avenue," "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)", and my personal shining moments, Guns N Roses' "Sweet Child O Mine" and Foreigner's "Waiting for a Girl Like You". I have never laughed so hard in my life. And who knew "Islands in the Stream" was so tricky?
Friday...had to be up bright and early. Considering the night before, it was tough, but I prevailed. I had gnudi at The Spotted Pig to look forward to, so I made it through the day and then met Keith around 9. David and Karen joined us there later after seeing a play called "A Catered Affair"--NOT recommended btw. I stuffed myself with not just gnudi, but other delights as well, including a delicous duck egg with sauteed ramps and the always fabulous banoffee pie. Their site has a full menu. And as proof that my gnudi obsession has not only gone global, but affected my friends at work now, apparently Keith was in a business meeting in Australia when in the presentation, they brought up my blog and pictures of us having gnudi at The Spotted Pig. Pretty funny stuff. (My friends know how much I love the gnudi, but for those of you who don't, here are all of the posts I've written on the topic.)
On Saturday, I met my long-time friend Michelle for brunch at Alice's Tea Cup on the Upper West Side, hung out at Central Park, and then went down to the West Village. We stopped in at Corner Bistro, one of my all-time favorite places in NYC for a McSorley's. It was so nice to spend time with her. Then it was off to Grand Central to go up to Goldens Bridge for *my very first Seder*. Much more on this in another post, but suffice to say, I had gefilte fish (slightly sweet), asked the Four Questions, and sang in Hebrew! It was very special. Given it was my last night in the city, I just couldn't go straight home afterwards, so I went to my favorite jazz bar, Smalls, and enjoyed saxophonist Marcus Strickland doing his thing.
My last day (sniffle) was spent checking out and then meeting Karen, her new BF, Randy, and David for brunch at Cafe Sabarsky, the Viennese Kaffeehaus in the Neue Galerie. The Pope, whose schedule had been matching mine pretty closely all week (I go to Westchester, he goes to Westchester; I go uptown, he goes uptown), once again shut down the area near where I needed to go. The Popemobile reminds me strangely of the clear plastic box David Blaine trapped himself in when he suspended himself from the Tower Bridge in London several years ago.
Anyway, back to Cafe Sabarsky. I had my luggage with me and at first they wouldn't let me in. After my luggage was searched and locked away in a bombproof room (OK, not really), we figured it all out and I was able to enjoy a lovely two-hour brunch that included crepes with smoked trout and horseradish cream, and wiener melange one of the best cups of coffee ever with the funniest name. Apparently pronounced "veener" not "wiener," our server guffawed with laughter every time we misspoke. Seriously, he actually said to us "That never gets old." At least he admitted that I was in good company since he said Jake Gyllenhaal made the same pronunciation gaffe. The food is very good here, but it's the pastries that really make people drool. We had two--Sabarskytorte which is a dark chocolate and rum torte and some kind of Quark cheese strudel. What a sweet way to end my trip.
The best part was on the way to Cafe Sabarsky, my cab driver asked if I was going to the airport afterwards. I said I was and did he want to take me. I needed to leave at 1. He said yes, I will be here at 1. Whoa! Let me just say that this never happens. Cab drivers in NYC never pre-arrange to come get you, because they never need to. So now I have something else to thank the Pope for!