Trying to take another bite out of the Big Apple
30.12.2008 - 02.01.2009
Having made several day trips to NYC with my best girlfriend, I have only made one "big trip" into the city. That would be my not-so-fabulous 15 minutes of fame for the Dove photoshoot in September 2007. After that trip, where I was humiliated by Warren Tricomi, celebrity hairstylist; made to get naked (repeatedly) in a semi-closet with Giuseppe the wardrobe boy; forced to participate in a photoshoot with two chicks half my age by a the only advertiser in the western world that doesn't believe in airbrushing; and abused by Helga, the sadistic massage therapist, just so I could see my picture in the December issue of Marie Claire....I swore I would not return.
The City lost its magic for me on that trip. Can you blame me?
I vowed that September 2007 would be the one and only season of "Vicki & the City."
Seems I was wrong. I had an unexpected trip to NYC for New Year's Eve as a Christmas gift from my husband, so once again, I found myself in the city that never sleeps, wondering if it was going to be a repeat of the trauma of 2007. I have to say that, despite my dislike of crowds and cold, I was so pleasantly surprised. The City smiled on me this time.
We arrived on a Tuesday afternoon. With very little time to do much, we had dinner at Tavern on the Green. This is not a restaurant to go to for the food. Seriously, the food is pretty average. The Christmas decorations were, however, beautiful and well worth the overpriced meal! My favorite part? The polished waiters in their turquoise jackets sweeping the crumbs off my table every time I took a bite and shaking my martini at the table before pouring it into my glass. It just made me feel special.
We asked the cab driver to drop us off in Times Square and we walked the rest of the way to the hotel. I can't help but love the lights and madness of Times Square at night. You can't help but feel the energy of the place.
Wednesday was New Year's Eve. Oh, and did I mention that it was FREAKIN' COLD? It wasbarely hovering above the zero mark with windchills in the negatives. The morning was spent window shopping and seeing the incredible Christmas displays at places like Saks and Lord & Taylor, visiting the tree at Rockefeller Center, visiting the B&H Megastore so that I could get my camera fix, and taking a stroll through the New York Public Libary. The library had to be my favorite. Amazing architecture, beautiful wordwork and murals, and the most incredible librarian I had ever seen. She had to have come with the place, wearing a pink wool suit with a bright pink rhinestone brooch on the lapel. She had fiery red hair, piled into a gravity defying mass on top of her head. She wore huge sunglasses, like a 1960's movie star. And she had to be at least 70 years old. I was mesmerized. That was a photo I would have paid hundreds for, but with no flash allowed, a very dark room, and no tripod, I just had to burn her into my memory.
We also did a stroll through Grand Central Station. Another beautiful old building with so much life buzzing all around.
After spending the entire morning walking around in the snow, a good lunch was in order. Local friends had recommended Da Marino, an intimate little Italian restaurant in the Theater District. We were not disappointed. After I warmed up with a hot coffee with Bailey's, we ordered the bruschetta. It was so good, we ordered a second one! Pasta loving girl that I am, I ordered a pasta dish that was rich with olive oil, garlic, and spinach.
I was loathe to leave this warm little haven, but we had tickets to a show at 2:00. Matt had gotten us tickets to "All My Sons," a broadway play with John Lithgow, Diane Weist, and Katie Holmes. It was in a very small theater that had an incredibly intimate feel to it. No matter where your seats were, you were literally steps from the stage. The show was wonderful and at the end, John Lithgow led everyone in singing "Auld Lang Syne." What an incredibly memorable experience.
After the show, we headed back to the hotel for some rest before heading out to dinner. It was New Year's Eve, after all. The revelers were already piling up in Times Square. If you want to be close to the ball drop, you have to arrive early in the morning. Once you arrive in Times Square, you are searched by NYPD and placed into a "grid" that is barricaded. You can't leave it. Not to eat, not to drink, not to go to the bathroom. So....those folks that you see on the T.V. have literally been standing in the freezing cold ALL DAY with no food or drink and no way to go pee. Not this girl!! We watched them shivering in their grids as we headed to dinner!
Dinner was at Keen's, an old steakhouse near Times Square. It was an incredibly warm and cozy restaurant with a huge, wood burning fireplace that we were lucky enough to be seated right in front of. When we were seated, they brought fresh bread and cold vegetables with dip. We ordered lobster bisque and the tomato salad with stilton cheese. So good. Dinner for me was a HUGE smoked filet mignon with a giant skillet of pommes frites. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Matt had lobster and filet and his wasn't too bad either! The atmosphere in the restaurant was festive, with several obviously local large families celebrating. Lovely grandmothers and grandfathers came by, patting us on our backs and wishing us "Happy New Year," while young girls in sequined dresses twirled around on the intricate tile floor, just to see the firelight make their skirts sparkle. It was very hard to leave, but there was that whole ball drop thing still, don't you know.
We made the dutiful trek to the closest available grid, waited in line, got searched, and subsequently locked into our grid. It was cold and I'm not sure it's worth the time you have to wait to see the ball drop. However, the air was electric, filled with the excitement of tens of thousands of people.
The confetti was most definitely the highlight. After the ball drops, the Square literally vacates in minutes. No joke. By about 10 minutes after midnight, you could stand in the heart of Times Square, knee deep in piles of confetti and glitter. The wind was whipping through the street and catching the confetti in swirls, carrying it high into the air around our heads. People danced and laughed. It was magical.
As is the case with all magical moments, it was fleeting, lasting just the blink of an eye, and then it was gone. Within moments, the streets were empty, with nothing but lonely piles of confetti and discarded hats being scooped up by the sweepers. 2008 was past.
We got champagne and cheesecake to ring in 2009 and headed up to a warm room.
We toasted "goodbye" to 2008 and "hello" to 2009 as the street sweepers whispered past, listening to the distant shouts and laughter of the people below as the first morning of 2009 glowed dimly on the horizon.
Thursday morning, New Year's Day, dawned bright and beautiful. It was still incredibly cold, but at least the sun was shining. We took the Subway down to SoHo. I really love the Subway.
It was pretty early and the streets were still very quiet. We just walked for a while. I enjoy looking at the buildings, the graffiti, and the interesting people that you see at every turn. We wandered through a very cool little neighborhood and just soaked in some of the interesting sights.
It was chilly and we had about an hour to kill before a brunch reservation, so we ducked into a little cafe. What a gem! Cafe Habana was a tiny corner building that had the air of a quaint old diner. We were enthusiastically greeted by the waitresses and we sat at a little table by the window. After ordering some coffee for me and Mexican hot chocolate for Matt, we watched as the exoticly beautiful waitresses, with long dark hair and ebony eyes, danced and sang with the customers in the tiny aisle. Everyone was smiling and laughing in the warm little cafe. I could have stayed there all day.
We made a short walk down to Elizabeth for brunch. They have a great brunch menu and I ordered up grilled cheese sliders with pickles and a spicy bloody mary, while Matt decided on baked eggs. Both were great and the atmosphere of the restaurant was really unique. I loved the decor, especially the little silver skull lamps they had flanking the entrance. I liked this place. Too cool.
It was back to the Subway, where we headed uptown for my favorite dessert: Carnegie Deli's cheesecake.
Seriously, this cheesecake is to die for. And it is freakishly HUGE. Yes, I pretty much at the entire piece myself. I love the Deli too. When you walk in, you think, "Holy Crap, this place is so crowded, I am going to have to wait an hour." Within seconds, you are shown to a table with about 50 other people crowded around it, and two vacant chairs. You squeeze into your designated spot and peruse the menu with choices like the Woody Allen, Fifty Ways to Love Your Liver, the Brisketball, Ah There's the Reuben, or the Bacon Whoopee....and be sure to save room for the homemade pickles. Yum! Did I mention that the sandwiches are, um, big. Really, really big?
With what felt like 4 pounds of cheesecake sitting in my stomach, I felt like I needed to walk it off in Central Park. In warmer months, Central Park is my favorite part of the City. It is a haven of peace and quiet in a place that I find a little too hectic and crowded. Even in winter, it has a serenity to it that soothes the soul after a day of bustling crowds.
We wandered as far as the Museum of Natural History, so we decided we'd pay it a visit. I really wanted to go to the Museum of Art, but it was closed. Wow! Was the museum crowded. It was worth the visit, though. From the beautiful architecture of the building itself, to the butterfly arboretum, to the planetarium....I felt like a kid on the world's best school field trip. Oh, and did I mention Dinosaur Bones? Who doesn't like Dinosaur Bones?
The museum pretty much wore us out, so we headed back to the hotel for a little down time before dinner. Dinner was at 5 Napkin Burger in Hell's Kitchen. I got the original 5 napkin burger, 10oz. of fresh ground chuck, comte cheese, caramelized onions, and rosemary aioli on a soft white roll. This was undeniably the best burger I think I have had in my life. Yes, it was so messy that it pretty much required 5 napkins. I ate every single bite. The restaurant was very cool too. With old meat hooks hanging from the ceilings and giant chalk boards covered with all sorts of interesting doodles, it was a show for the eyes. Conveniently forgetting about the giant slab o'cheesecake I had earlier, I insisted on getting the espresso brownie sundae, complete with a huge brownie, ice cream and salted peanuts. Of course I ate every bite.
After dinner, we met friends Cris and Mike who live in New Jersey for drinks. They had brought their beautiful daughters Alyssa and Amanda into the city to see the tree. The girls even made me my very own "I heart NY" drawing that is now proudly displayed in my office.
It was getting late, and we were getting tired. We said our goodbyes and headed back to our hotel. Our final night was peaceful. As I awoke the next morning, I remembered why I do "heart" New York. Despite what anyone might say, I find New Yorkers to be warm and wonderful people. There wasn't a single person that didn't greet me with a warm smile, say "Happy New Year," or ask if I needed any help. The city itself also holds a wealth of beautiful old buildings and great architecture. In a moment, you can feel transported to another time and another place. The city also houses so many wonderful restaurants, great food, interesting shops, good shows....there is never a lack of wonderful things to eat, beautiful things to see, or fun things to do.
As the City continued sleeping and we made our way through the quiet early morning streets to the airport, I said..."Goodbye" to New York, this time thinking how nice it might be to come back soon.