Tag Archives: New York

A Visit to Google NYC

15 Dec

James has to go to New York several times a year for work and sometimes I decide to tag along because we both love the city.
IMG_20160713_135543Though I love it a lot less now I know how humid it gets in summer. I’m not sure if New York is particularly disgusting when it’s hot or if living in Seattle and San Francisco has spoiled us. Probably a little from column A and a little from column B.

But yeah, James worked during the day, and in the evenings we did fun touristy things like …

Book of Mormon!
IMG_20160714_184320We got pizza afterwards. =) The top one had pepperoni and honey and it was delicious.
IMG_20160714_220500On one of James’ travel days we visited the Museum of Natural History. The insanely massive Megalodon was my favourite – it was so big its head was peeking out of the room.
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The t-rex was also cool.
IMG_20160715_103154But the main reason I joined James this trip was because I’d managed to get dinner reservations to Eleven Madison Park!

Here are our pre-dinner cocktails:
IMG_20160713_174615The food (and wine matching – with frequent refills!) was wonderful. These were our appetisers – the boxes were handmade and arrived stacked on top of each other.
IMG_20160713_175313When stacked, they looked like the chandeliers above us. =)
IMG_20160713_201044I am such a sucker for fancy butter – I just spoon it into my mouth like ice cream. The bread was also amazing and they kept offering me more and I kept taking it.
IMG_20160713_181022This one was really fun. A picnic basket was delivered to our table with little jars of condiments. (The drink was the only dud of the night. I thought it was cider but it was some sort of gross tomato flavoured thing)
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Fast forward to the end, and this was part of our dessert being made:
IMG_20160713_202649The second part was a chocolate game (apparently dessert used to involve a magic trick so I was a little bit bummed … until I saw how much chocolate they gave us!)

There were four bars of chocolate and we had to guess which was which out of coffee, smoke, maple syrup and chilli.
IMG_20160713_204922James and I guessed identically … identically wrong. We only got one out of the four correct. =(

We couldn’t finish that much chocolate so we asked for a little bag for the leftovers and they were like “oh we’ll give you a fresh set!” (We ended up taking that extra set AND our chocolate leftovers – because duh).

Afterwards we went to a swanky bar with James’ coworkers and made them play the chocolate game while we all drank cocktails. It was an awesome night. =)

James also gave me a tour of the Google NY campus. He always talks about how much cooler it is than Mountain View, and how it must be so disappointing for the NY employees whenever they visit HQ.IMG_20160715_151912The building is opposite the Chelsea Market and basically takes up a whole city block:
IMG_20160713_140539There was a cool lego room where people could make and store their own lego projects:
IMG_20160714_123900And a project display wall and a weird ladder that only Google employees were allowed to climb:
IMG_20160714_123927Someone made a replica of the Google building:
IMG_20160714_124041The area also had a lego-themed micro kitchen:
IMG_20160714_124238 With brain food.IMG_20160714_124224James really liked the temporary work spaces at the New York office. He said he normally goes to a high floor and sits somewhere with a nice view of the city but he was also fond of these impressively orange honeycombs:
IMG_20160715_160841We also found a couple of trams:
IMG_20160714_124726James was super jealous that the New York office has Killer Queen. It’s an awesome 10 player arcade game that our friends introduced us to. There’s one at Brewcade in San Francisco … but it’s not free like this one! There were a couple of guys playing while we were there so our group joined in and we had a mini battle (we won, primarily because of James’ queenly skills).
IMG_20160714_130741And this is the bouldering wall. There’s also one in Mountain View but it’s so far away that James never bothers going.
IMG_20160715_162136(Oh, and you know how you travel on bikes around the Mountain View campus? In the New York building you get little kick scooters to ride around on)

Here’s James and his team on one of the decks. It was so hot and humid that we all sought shelter inside as soon as I took the photo.
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The New York campus has a lot of cool food options – they bring in a lot of guest chefs to cook for the employees. I saw David Chang (of Momofuku fame) featured on their wall of fame. =O

This was a food truck that was inside the building, though it was closed when we toured it at the end of the day.
IMG_20160715_153811 (1)
Above the Chelsea Market there’s a Google cafeteria decorated like a cool loft.
IMG_20160714_133046 We ate upstairs in one of the meeting rooms. I really liked the fancy animal portraits. =)IMG_20160714_133819We did a bunch of other stuff – saw Then She Fell (an interactive play like Sleep No More), ate and drank a lot, and I did some shopping while James worked. Did you know New York has no sales tax on clothing that costs less than $110? That was a pleasant surprise. =D

Cat and Mitch are planning to visit New York next year so hopefully we can time a trip to coincide with that (although ugh, it will be in summer again).

So it looks like there will be a lot of trips to NYC in our future! (Though I hope it’s not like how we visited San Francisco a lot while we lived in Seattle and then ended up moving there and thinking … well that was a waste)

Bye NYC! See you soon!
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New York, New York: Day 6

13 May

Sorry I haven’t been posting in awhile! Julian came to visit us in Seattle and then a week later it was Cat and Scott’s turn! But anyway, this was our last (half) day in New York. We went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art which is just crazy enormous. You could spend a week in there! We quickly realised that the 2-3 hours we’d allocated wouldn’t be enough to see everything so we split up and looked at the stuff we were interested in (it still wasn’t enough time!)

The highlights for me were the Egyptian, Asian and Middle Eastern art exhibits. They also had a bunch of modern art on display. James’ favourite was an exhibit on weapons throughout the ages. When we go back I want to visit the Met again so I can see the things I missed out on. The museum had this massive section with a lot of historically accurate rooms. I saw the Frank Lloyd Wright one and a bunch of French period rooms but had to breeze by most of them. =(

Afterwards we went to Shake Shack.

I can’t remember how much they were but they were pretty much fast food-ish prices. They were really great burgers – not too greasy or overloaded. I got the ice cream (I think they called it concrete?) in a rhubarb and strawberry flavour and it was great as well. Overall they were great, cheap burgers and I can definitely see why the chain is so popular!

We took the subway back to our apartments because Julian needed to pack for his flight. James and I had already packed so we headed to Momofuku Milk Bar.

We bought an assortment of cookies in a cute pack as a thank you gift to a friend who was keeping an eye on the cats for us. We also got some compost cookies and a slice of crack pie (delicious! It was basically caramelized butter) to snack on during our flight.

And that was pretty much our last day in New York. As sad as we were to leave I think we were all pretty exhausted! The constant walking around had caused my bulged disc to play up and by the end I was hobbling around and holding my back like an old lady.

So anyway that was our first trip to New York. It definitely lived up to expectations and I can’t wait to go back – there’s so much to do (and eat!). James and I daydreamed about possibly moving there in the future but to maintain the same standard of living you need to earn twice as much. Eep! We decided it was much better value to spend a couple of thousand dollars visiting every so often. =)

New York, New York: Day 5

2 May

This was the first morning we got to sleep in. We began with a late breakfast/early lunch at Katz Deli (famous for “I’ll have what she’s having” in When Harry Met Sally).

There was a complicated eating system – we got some tickets when we went in and the the option to get table service or self-service. The tickets were for self-service (the counter staff would stamp or punch your ticket with what you ordered) but we thought that looked too complicated and figured it was worth paying an extra 20% to avoid the hassle. You can see the self-service line and seating area here.

They gave us some pickles to start with.

Jules and I ordered the Reuben with pastrami (I think $16.95?). Look how high the meat is stacked up!

It was a great sandwich but honestly I reckon my own Reuben measures up pretty well. My bread is definitely better – I butter the outside and toast it!

James ordered a pastrami sandwich (I can’t remember how much it was but vaguely recall it being within a dollar of the Reubens). He learned his lesson from the day before and went with something cheeseless.

James had a bite of my Reuben and said that mine was superior. It was such a massive sandwich and we’d already eaten so much in New York that we all agreed we would have been happy with one half the size.

Afterwards we hunted for my Rick Owens jacket at Bergdorf Goodman (sold out, boo) and went to see … Jersey Boys on Broadway!

We got fantastic seats (something like 6 from the front, right in the middle!) It was a fantastic show and I’ve been listening to it pretty much non-stop on Spotify. It was a last-minute thing and I’m really glad we managed to catch something on Broadway.

Afterwards we went to check out Times Square. There’s an area set up in the middle so all of the tourists can take their cheesy Times Square photos without getting in everyone else’s way.

Then it was almost time for our dinner at Momofuku Noodle Bar. We got there about half an hour before it opened so we headed to the nearest bar for a drink. It was Coyote Ugly. Yes like the movie. And no it was not like the movie. The bar was almost empty (there were maybe 10 old guys there) and there was one bored bartender who would occasionally dance on the bar while the men largely ignored her. Super awkward. 

But anyway at 5:30 we headed over to Momofuku, still pretty full from our lunch. We ordered a bottle of sake (around $60). It was alright but as far as I could tell it tasted like every other sake I’ve ever had.

I had prebooked the fried chicken meal for 4 ($100). When I made the booking I asked whether a party of 3 could book the fried chicken meal – they said that groups of 3 had really struggled with the fried chicken. I told the guys but we figured that we’re big eaters so should be able to manage it.

It doesn’t even look that big in the photo. But that was a massive plate of fried chicken – the waitress said it was 2.5 whole chickens. We got through like .. 2/3 of it. As Jules described it, we still had the bottom layer of the chicken pyramid remaining.

The chicken on the left was traditional fried chicken and the one on the right was glazed with a sweet/spicy Korean sauce. It came with vegies, sauces and pancakes and we wrapped it up like peking duck.

The vegies were beautiful. The tiny little carrots were amazing – I’ve never really understood people who snacked on carrots but they were totally snackworthy.

The pancakes were really thick which I didn’t care for. I much prefer the thinner texture of true peking duck wrappers. The sauces were fantastic though. From the top clockwise it was a jalapeno/soy (or was it sesame oil?) mix, chili sauce, hoisin sauce and a ginger/spring onion sauce.

The chicken was very well done (everyone seemed to prefer the regular chicken) and aside from a crispier breading I couldn’t really tell the difference between it and a place like Ezell’s. Oh actually I take that back – you could definitely tell that they’d used a really great quality chicken. There was just a cleaner chickeny taste than other chicken I’ve had. It’s hard to describe but I definitely noticed it.

In the end though, it was just way too much food for us. After all that food in NY it was Momofuku that finally broke us.

I reckon it would be a good amount for 5-6 and you could have even more people if you wanted to try other dishes. I think if I could do it over again I’d just order off the regular menu (I saw people slurping some really great looking ramen) instead of going for the chicken banquet. But if you’re in a large group then I reckon the chicken is really great value for money.

We headed back home for a nap because we were planning on doing the Empire State building around 11:30pm. I had heard horror stories of 4+ hour waits so wanted to avoid the crowds by going late.When we woke up – disaster! It was overcast and rainy! But it was our last night and we wanted to see all the lights so had no choice but to go. It was really weird seeing how (comparatively) empty the streets were when it was late and raining.

When we got to the Empire State the news was even worse: there was no visibility at the top. The front desk even stamped our tickets with a frowny face!

At least there was no wait. There were multiple levels that were entirely set up as waiting areas with those zig-zaggy velvet ropes. I can’t remember the exact layout but it was something like you waited to buy your tickets, then took an elevator to a massive waiting area, which lead to another elevator and another waiting area – I can’t remember if there was a third elevator/waiting area combo or if you reached the top after that. I can only imagine how utterly horrific those waits are in peak times.

When we got to the top it was nearly empty. There were maybe 15-20 people around and the visibility was awful. We could see some lights through the fog but none of the buildings. And the outside deck was closed because they were worried about lightning strikes (there was one cool moment where we got to see the sky illuminated by lightning).

We wandered around the inside peering through the windows. Gradually the fog cleared and we could see all the buildings but we still weren’t allowed to go outside. But our optimism paid off and after maybe 10 minutes they finally let us onto the deck. And we got to wander around, admire the view and take heaps of photos with nobody else around.

There were lights in every direction. It was incredible being up there alone – everything worked out perfectly for us and I don’t think we could recreate the conditions if we tried. It was bittersweet knowing it was our last night in New York but it was an amazing way to farewell an amazing city.

New York, New York: Day 4

19 Apr

Poor James did not have a good night of it after his lactose extravaganza. He was feeling a bit better the next day, though Julian pointed out that in the morning light James’ skin had this odd … green tint to it.

Our first plan was a cruise to go see the Statue of Liberty. They recommended that we get there 45 minutes early, and it’s a good thing we did because the outside deck filled up really quickly. You can see Jules and James (looking a bit worse for wear in his beanie and sunglasses) in the second row on the right.

It was (again!) a beautiful day so the tour was packed. There were two additional seating areas inside but they weren’t as busy as the outside deck. I think it was extra busy because there was a giant Chinese tour group on our cruise.

And I’m just going to get this out now – I hate Chinese tourists. They are the worst. The fucking worst. The announcer guy had to keep telling them not to block a particular area (it was a spot where people were supposed to take a quick photo or two then move away, but groups from the Chinese tour would just park themselves there for 10+ minutes at a time). It wasn’t too bad for most of the cruise but when the Statue of Liberty came into view it was a feeding frenzy.

And just because it was such a pain to get a crappy photo of the statue, here it is.

We were near the edge so you would have thought it was OK but a couple of women from the Chinese tour group stood in front of our view of the statue nearly the whole time! One woman took a bunch of photos with the other posing with the statue behind her (it was a really stupid pose too – ball both of your fists under your chin, tilt your head to the side and make a cutesy face). She took two photos, then a third – all of the same fucking pose – then a fourth, and that’s when I got cut. I glared at them and snapped “oh come on!” They looked scared and hurried off.

The most interesting part of the cruise was actually the announcer talking about the history of Manhattan (did you know it used to be hilly? They leveled it to build all the buildings). James enjoyed seeing the scale of the city and said that the cruise was actually his favourite part of the trip – which really surprised me because I thought it was one of the weakest. But I’m glad he enjoyed it. =)

Afterwards we went to a Mexican place that Julian recommended called La Esquina. The tacos were super fresh and delicious but like twice the price of regular tacos ($10 for 2). Julian said they’re the best tacos he’s ever had.

The ones closest to the camera are steak tacos, I think the ones with green on top are pulled pork, and the pink ones in the back are pork carnitas.

We also ordered a bunch of fish tacos.

The steak ones were my favourite but Jules and James both preferred the pork.

We briefly went to Wall Street, but it was really hot and crowded and there wasn’t much to see. You can’t get on the trading floor, which was the only thing I would have wanted to do, so we went back home and had a nap. It was so refreshing – I felt so much better afterwards!

And then it was time for what Jules and I thought was the highlight of our trip – Sleep No More. If you go to New York you have to see this play. Jules and James quizzed me about it but all I knew was that they had renovated some old warehouses to make the set, it was choose-your-own-adventurish and described as Macbeth meets Hitchcock.

This was the line outside.

After we picked up our tickets we had to walk through some pitch black hallways to get to the waiting area (I was feeling my way via the walls), which was done up like a 1920s jazz club with actors in character. The effect was actually pretty disconcerting and the guys were getting nervous that I had signed us up for a haunted house.

Oh and before I forget, how cool are the tickets? I think the card number you got determined when you could enter. In the background is one of the masks that we all had to wear.

So like I said earlier we had no idea what to expect. And if you’re planning on seeing the play please don’t read any further because it’s so much fun discovering everything for yourself!

We got into an escalator and they randomly let people off on different floors. I think there were maybe 5 floors in total but it’s hard to say – it was dark and I was pretty disoriented going up and down all the stairs.

We were told not to speak during the play and if we were in a group we were encouraged to split up. We were also given masks that we had to keep on at all times. How creepy were the masks? Pretty creepy.

Yes that’s blood on my mask. More on that later.

Like I said earlier, the play is based on Macbeth, but it’s kind of an open-ended experience. I wandered the hotel at my own pace, deciding which rooms I wanted to explore and which characters I wanted to follow. It was quite eerie to be part of the silent masked audience following them around.

The characters frequently moved from room to room and I guess it was deliberately choreographed so they often crossed paths. I’d have to decide whether I wanted to keep watching the same character or start following the new one. It took maybe an hour before I had a rough handle on who everyone was (I remember thinking “noo I’m going to be the only one who doesn’t understand the play!”) It was difficult because they didn’t speak so you had to go by context and body language – also there were maybe 3 male characters who looked similar and were dressed similarly which made it extra confusing.

Each character’s scenes took roughly the same amount of time and once they were done they lead their audience down to a main banquet room. There was a scene with the whole cast and then they split up again so this time I could pick who to follow from the beginning. They looped the first half of the play 2 or 3 times so I followed different characters and tried to piece stuff together. Then it was time for the next half and I was all like “nooo I wasn’t done with the first act!”

I primarily followed the main characters, who were all very popular – Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, the king, Macduff and his wife and also the witches. Talking to Jules later he did the same thing, though we each saw scenes that the other hadn’t. However James avoided the main characters (he hates crowds) and had a completely different experience to us. He mainly explored the hotel since so much thought had obviously been put into it – here’s a cool article about how detailed the set design was – and keep in mind that’s 6 rooms out of 100+!

James said that he followed minor characters and at one point was challenged to a game of luck by a bartender – he had to pick the Jack out of a hand of Kings. The people before him failed but James picked the correct card and was rewarded with a shot of scotch from a special locked box. James also managed to find his way to a candy store (I think there’s a picture of it in the article I linked). He tried one of them and said it was real, then just started handing them out to random people who walked in. He said they seemed a bit apprehensive but still ate them – maybe they thought he was part of the show.

So yeah, you could follow the major characters, the side characters, explore the set … oh and apparently there were secret passages as well! It was so much fun piecing stuff together afterwards – Julian witnessed seeing a lady with a suitcase steal some money and it turned out that later that night James saw the bellhop character going through her suitcase to discover the stolen money. It had nothing to do with the main story but how cool is it that everyone had their own side plots going on? Words really can’t get across what a rich, immersive experience it was and if you’re planning a trip to New York I highly, highly recommend that you go.

Oh yeah, and the blood (actually chocolate syrup). There was this pretty trippy blood orgy scene (there were strobes, there were boobs, there was scrotum, and also a guy with a giant animal headmask) – the witches and Macbeth were drinking blood and spraying it everywhere and since I was in the first row it went all over my mask (leaking onto my face), top and arms. The guy standing next to me was wearing a suit and I saw him sadly look down at his blood-spattered jacket. The blood orgy is probably the highlight of the play and James was a little bummed out that he’d missed it. He was also sad that he missed the Macbeth death scene.

I didn’t realise there was blood on my face until the end – the whole time I was thinking “someone in the audience really smells like chocolate!” Here I am after the show.

The play started at 7pm finished at 10pm and we were starving so we went to The Spotted Pig for dinner. I cleaned off the blood in the bathroom and had a couple of concerned people ask me if I was alright, which was very sweet. =)

Unfortunately my dinner photos came out too dark but we all had awesome beef and blue cheese burgers that came with a generous serve of shoestring rosemary fries ($20). I loved the fries! They was enough rosemary to be aromatic but not so much that it tasted bitter. The burger was perfectly done and one of three excellent burgers we had in New York – Burger Joint, Spotted Pig and Shake Shack.

Jules rated them Spotted Pig, Burger Joint then Shake Shack; I rated them Spotted Pig, with Burger Joint and Shake Shack equal second, and James went Burger Joint, Shake Shack, then Spotted Pig (I suspect he didn’t like the blue cheese). Afterwards Jules ordered a creme caramel by mistake (he thought it would be a creme brulee) and I ordered a banoffee (banana toffee) pie.

So no photos, but it was once again a great meal and the service was excellent. Also one of the waiters saw our Sleep No More masks and said that he was auditioning for a part in the play the next day.

After dinner we headed off to a couple of bars. It was around midnight on a weekday but still busy everywhere. We went to Death & Co where we waited maybe 10 minutes to get in – there were maybe 7 people waiting outside. The funny thing was that the door guy was making a big deal about how busy the club was, but when we got inside there were lots of booths free! I guess it was to make the club seem more exclusive? We each ordered a drink and then got a call from Please Don’t Tell to let us know that there was a table free for us.

The drinks at PDT weren’t as nice as the drinks at Death & Co or Pegu but they had a cool secret entrance tucked away in the phone booth of a cafe. Here is Jules going in:

Inside the phone booth there was a false wall that opened into the bar. We each ordered a drink but the bar closed at 2am, so we drank, chatted awhile and then headed back to our apartments, ready for our next day of New York adventures.

New York, New York: Peter Luger Steakhouse

17 Apr

Peter Luger Steakhouse
178 Broadway. Brooklyn, New York

The night before we were able to get a reservation for the last sitting at Peter Luger. We were looking forward to it even though we were all still pretty full from our 5 1/3 pizzas earlier in the afternoon (not tiny Domino’s-sized slices either – proper “oh fuck I’d better fold this in half” slices).

Peter Luger has been rated New York’s best steakhouse for 24 years in a row and at the entrance to the restaurant they have a bunch of their awards displayed.

My expectations were high because quite frankly James does an awesome rib-eye (apparently the secret is to season with LOTS of salt and pepper).

Most people seemed to be ordering enormous steaks that fed anywhere from 2-4 people but we went with individual steaks because I wanted a rib-eye. In hindsight I regret not going for the novelty of a shared steak. The individual steaks worked out slightly cheaper per head but I think you got more meat with the larger steaks – I think they both came to around $40+ a person.

James and Jules ordered the Peter Luger microbrew. They both agreed it was pretty bad (James said it made him a bit nostalgic for his family’s old homebrews) – in fact it took Jules the whole night just to choke his down. There was some onion (?) bread to start with but it tasted like day-old Brumby’s bread.

Also another word of advice – forget the sides. We ordered fries and broccoli because we felt vaguely unwholesome just eating steak. The fries were gross (we barely touched them) and the broccoli was, well, broccoli.

The steaks arrived on hot ceramic plates. My rib-eye:

The outside was super charred but the inside was a lovely medium rare:

Jules and James ordered a sirloin each:

The steaks were great. They were enormous and well worth the $40ish we paid for them. You know what steak tastes like, and this was like … a steakier steak than you’ve ever had.

Jules and James both preferred their sirloins because they thought my rib-eye was too fatty. Initially I disagreed but the richness of the rib-eye did start to get a bit much as the meal went on. Normally I eat a regular-sized portion so it’s never come up, but after a steak the size of my face I was really feeling it.

They gave us some house steak sauce which I tried; it was really sweet and didn’t go with the meat at all. I don’t know why you’d go to all the trouble of dry aging and perfectly cooking a steak only to slather it in gross, sweet sauce. I used it to try and make the fries a bit more palatable, but nope – like I said earlier, just focus on the steak. Looking at some other reviews it seems to be a pretty common theme that people loved the steaks and hated the sides (also the service). The service was pretty bad – we spent most of the dinner with our water glasses empty, which is a huge pet peeve of mine.

Here is a view of our table most of the way into the meal. Notice the bread shunted off to the side and the nearly-untouched state of the broccoli and terrible fries (also the steak sauce that I had carefully scraped away lest it further contaminate the meat):

We were super full at the end but saw a lot of people ordering the sundae and figured why not (nooo James, that was the final nail in your lactose intolerant coffin!)

Why do Americans like whipped cream so much? It’s on everything. You can get green tea with whipped cream on it. Disgusting. But anyway we pushed the whipped cream off to the side and attacked the sundae. It was nice but not really much different from one you could get anywhere else.

Overall I reckon the steaks are fantastic – not life-changing but a definite step above what you can achieve at home – but everything else ranges from awful to mediocre. If you come here, seriously just order the steaks and if you’re still hungry afterwards (omg) pick up a sundae and some fries at the Maccas down the street.
Peter Luger Steak House on Urbanspoon

New York, New York: Day 3

15 Apr

The weather stayed beautiful for our third day in New York. We went to Balthazar, a breakfast place that Jules recommended from his last time in the city. On the way we saw a street blocked off for a photo shoot.

They had a whole bunch of people setting up and we had to move because they were getting our reflection in the glass. The people doing the shoot were really polite about getting us gawking tourists to move (and even nice about asking James not to take anymore photos). In general we were surprised by how friendly the New Yorkers we encountered were.

But anyway when we reached Balthazar it was doing a brisk trade in takeaway pastries. It had a separate (much less busy) entrance for dining in and we had no trouble getting seated at a booth. Inside it had this very French bistro vibe.

The breakfasts were pricey but very well done. I ordered a gruyere herb omelette ($16) which was super fluffy and a freshly squeezed orange juice ($6.25).

James ordered some buckwheat crepes ($17) and a couple of coffees ($4.50 each). He and Julian both agreed that the coffees here were very good – James couldn’t remember if they were Melbourne quality but he said they were much better than in Seattle, and again he wondered where Seattle had gotten the impression that it had great coffee.

The crepes were delicious but super cheesy, which would really come back to haunt James later in the day (foreshadowing).

Balthazar was a very upmarket breakfast place – there was even a toilet guy, which is totally my worst tipping nightmare. Fortunately it was James who found out – he went to the bathroom and came back looking slightly disturbed (maybe that’s me projecting) and told us. Intrigued, Jules and I both quizzed him, and James said that the guy turned on the tap for him, handed him a towel afterwards, and he put $1 into the guy’s basket.

I still can’t get over how weird that is. Seriously has anyone ever gone to the bathroom of a fancy restaurant and been like “aw man I have to turn on my own tap??” There is no value added – and you have to tip for the dubious privilege of someone listening to you go! I don’t tend to carry cash to the bathroom so if there’s a toilet guy I have to make sure I take my bag and have money. I am squirming at the awkwardness. The awkwardness!

*ahem*

Anyway after our early breakfast we went to the Museum of Modern Art. We got there about 20 minutes before opening time. There were heaps of people buying tickets but we got to go in the shorter Explorer Pass queue. People were milling around but we waited at the gate so when the lady said to make 2 lines we were actually first in line.

The strategy I’d read online was to get there at opening time and go straight to the 5th floor where the popular exhibits are. Most people make their way from bottom to top, so if you reverse it there are fewer people around. It worked out really well because we got to see the best exhibits when we were fresh and with hardly anyone else around. By the time we left the 5th floor there were small crowds around all the paintings.

The 5th floor was undoubtedly the highlight. They had The Scream by Edvard Munch, some Matisses, Rothkos, Picassos, Dalis, Monets etc. The Warhols seemed to be split between the 4th and 5th floors. The 4th floor was a bit more contemporary and had some paintings and artists that even I’d heard of.

As we descended the floors it got progressively less interesting. The 3rd floor had some architecture designs and photographs – I liked the photographs but the architecture section was dead boring. There wasn’t anything memorable for me on the remaining floors and I reckon if you’re pressed for time you could just do floors 4-5 and the special exhibit on floor 6 and be perfectly satisfied. Being a completionist in New York is just too difficult.

After our dose of culture it was time for some Grimaldi’s Pizza.

Again our off-peak eating strategy paid off. I think we got there around 3pm and although the place was packed we only had to wait a couple of minutes. Julian said that Grimaldi’s has expanded a fair bit since he last went 3 years ago.

Something I noticed with a lot of the restaurants we went to was that the customers were mainly tourists. I don’t know if that means we wandered into tourist traps or whether it’s just a by-product of there being 530,000+ tourists a day in New York. I can’t remember how much the pizzas were but they were neither crazy expensive nor cheap. It was cash-only and the service was very average.

We ordered one large pizza with Italian sausage, ham, peppers and olives (the pizza above) and another with pepperoni, mushroom, onion and anchovies. Again, note the cheese content of the meal.

The pizzas were very good (though getting soggy towards the end) and we stuffed ourselves with 5 1/3 slices each. The guys made much mock of me for being able to keep up with them.

Julian said that the pizzas were better before they expanded. They were still better than any I’ve had in Seattle, but not the best pizza I’ve had in my life, which is what I was promised! New York probably has enough excellent pizza places that it’s not really worth going out of your way to eat at Grimaldi’s unless you want to make an afternoon of it and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.

You can walk across the bridge both ways but the view walking into Manhattan is much nicer. For ultra romance I bet it would be even nicer during sunset.

It’s a really nice walk (though quite busy) and the bridge is gorgeous. Why does James’ head look oddly tiny?

The walking area was suspended over the driving part of the bridge.

There was a subway station after the bridge so we got on that to go home. Well, Jules went home for a nap and James and I did some additional shopping. We dropped by the Rick Owens boutique to see if they had the leather jacket I wanted (unfortunately they didn’t) and then we went home to sleep before our late dinner. This blog post has gotten pretty long so I’ll do a separate post about the dinner, which was at a steakhouse that’s been rated the best in NY for 24 years in a row.

Oh and just to put a bookend on the dairy foreshadowing thing, for dessert that night James ate most of an ice cream sundae. Afterwards we went to a bar, which was where he started to feel really sick. He was probably really glad there wasn’t a toilet guy there cos that would have cost him a lot of money.

New York, New York: Gramercy Tavern

14 Apr

Gramercy Tavern
42 E 20th St, New York

For dinner our second night we went to Gramercy Tavern. Although it was a pretty fancy restaurant we got a same-day booking.

We had to all choose either the tasting menu or a la carte so we went with the tasting menu (mainly cos James and Jules didn’t care and I wanted to try the tasting menu). Julian was tasked with choosing the wine and he went with a 2007 Movia pinot noir ($98) which we all really enjoyed.

They started us off with some ricotta in puff pastry. It was very good; light and not greasy.

Peconic Bay scallops, clams, pickled mushrooms and cilantro broth. I thought the colours were beautiful and the cilantro broth offset the seafood very well (James was also very fond of the broth).

The next course was a warm lobster salad with carrots and chicory. The lobster was very tender but I don’t remember much about this dish, sorry! What I do remember is that the waiters would replace our cutlery for every course – the tip on a $100+ meal (plus wine!) is significant but they earned the tip a lot more than some other restaurants where they basically give you the food and disappear for the rest of the night.

Next was halibut with shiitake mushrooms and parsnip lobster sauce. The sauce gave the fish an almost meaty taste and I enjoyed this a lot more than I was expecting to – I don’t normally care for fish but this was fish that tasted like lobster!

The next course was sweet potato agnolotti with kohlrabi and pine nuts. This tasted pretty much as you would expect from the description.

Then we had the final savory course, which was roasted duck breast with quinoa, lentils, celery root and hazelnuts. I am normally not a fan of how white people do duck – to me Chinese BBQ duck is perfection and everything else is a distant second.

But I have to admit this duck was excellent. It was succulent and for some reason reminded me a little of pork. The quinoa was a bit eh but I loved the addition of hazelnuts.

There was only one dessert on the tasting menu but they brought us an additional dessert. Yay! This was a mandarin orange panna cotta with a marscapone disc (we all agreed the disc tasted like meringue though). This was super light and refreshing.

Our second dessert was a chocolate Pecan coconut cake with butter pecan ice cream. The cake wasn’t particularly memorable (I’m not a huge fan of the chocolate/toasted coconut combination) but OMG the ice cream was out of this world. It was light yet super rich and tasted of caramelized pecans. I wonder how hard it would be to recreate – I need this ice cream in my life.

After dessert they brought us some petit fours. The macarons were coconut but I don’t know what the others were because I was in the bathroom. Everywhere we went I was terrified that there would be a bathroom attendant that I’d be expected to tip. Luckily this wasn’t the case here (though James and Jules did encounter one at another restaurant – more on that later).

Julian was getting really full at this point, I was pleasantly full and I think James was just shy of full. It all felt very genteel nibbling on our petit fours after dinner.

They also brought us some after dinner mints. The two blueish ones were mints and the round one was a caramel.

Overall it was a very competent meal. Julian and James said that they weren’t wowed for the price (including the wine, tax and tip it ended up around $200 a person) but I thought that everything was very well done. I probably wouldn’t go back, but only because there are so many other fine dining options in New York that I want to try.

After Gramercy Tavern I was in that happy bubble that I’m always in after a really great meal. We walked to the subway, which was decorated with mosaic tile hats and took stupid photos.

Oh yeah, at the end of our meal we each got a complimentary muffin to have for breakfast the next day. I actually ate it a couple of days later when we went on a boat trip and it was great! Toasted coconut (which they seemed very fond of as a dessert ingredient) and a delicious chocolatey centre.

So that was the first (of a few) expensive meals in New York. Honestly though, New York wasn’t as pricey as I thought it would be. I think part of it was that I had always figured in a $2000+ plane trip from Australia, but Seattle is more like a $200-300 round trip. The food is about as expensive in New York as it is in Seattle (which in turn is comparable to Melbourne) but just worlds better. 

My theory is that if a restaurant isn’t excellent there’s just so much competition around that it goes out of business. I could cry when I compare it to Seattle, where even mediocre restaurants are raved about.

The restaurants were only a part of why we loved New York so much (James was talking about maybe looking for a job there in a couple of years) but they were a significant part! If New Yorkers didn’t do so much walking I’m sure they would all be huge from all the awesome food.
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