That's the Plaza hotel viewed from Central Park...remember the hotel in Home Alone 2?
Oh hi there again…yes I’m still alive. Somewhere between New York and Toronto I got sucked into the abyss that is nursing theory and so this here storytelling fell by the way side. Do forgive me?
The rest of NYC was amazing. I had 2 projects for school due on Monday so I spent quite a bit of time Sunday and Monday doing homework but we still made the best of it. I’m telling you, if you ever feel like you need to be more productive…take a vacation! Since you’re always looking to go out to play, you finish your work a lot quicker.
So what did we keep ourselves busy doing for the last 4 days in the Big Apple? Well Saturday was dubbed as our “cheap” day. It was about affordable, good eats and free outdoor activities. I woke up nice and early to do some homework and then went over to the neighbourhood Lululemon for a free yoga class. From there we had lunch at a great Thai place where I had the “no carb” pad thai where the noodles were replaced by carrots…you couldn’t tell at all! We popped by a little Farmer’s Market selling great upstate New York produce as well as lovely, local dried lavender. From there, we walked over to Brooklyn’s version of Central Park, Prospect Park. We checked out the botanical garden and the dog park which was lovely. From there we needed a place to put our feet up so we went to Grumpy Cafe which was anything but grumpy. Let me tell you something…New Yorkers are nice…like really nice, way nicer than Torontonians. Almost every place we went, we chatted it up with someone who worked there and they even asked us our names. I never felt stupid asking for directions and people actually held the door for me. It made my vacation just a wee bit sweeter. As for the cafe at Grumpy Cafe, M tells me it was amazing…unlike anything he’s ever tasted. I tried a sip and, while I don’t like coffee, I could definately see what he was talking about. The coffee wasn’t bitter, it was acidic, aromatic and really, really flavourful, like a good, bold wine.
From super friendly “Grumpy” Cafe, we hopped on a bus to a part of Brooklyn called Red Hook, to check out the famed bakery, Baked. You may remember Matt from Top Chef Desserts who is a baker at Baked? (Oh you don’t? oh ok it must just be me the reality TV cooking competition junkie…nevermind). Anywoo, the bakery was stellar, a really hometown feel with some solid brownies, cheesecakes and caramels. From there, we went back to our place and then had some takeout salad for dinner. Yup that’s how M&M spend a Saturday night in NYC…we stay in. Are we getting old?
Sunday was a great fun day. We hopped on an early morning subway train to Harlem to eat at Top Chef Masters’ (here I go with my chef competition trivia again) Marcus Samuelson’s restaurant, Red Rooster. I walked in and immediately loved the place…bright open space with lots of interesting American meets African decor. Plus it was Gospel Sunday Brunch at the restaurant so there was a beautiful soulful black woman belting out the Church music. I wish I could say I loved the food but, to be honest…I was underwhelmed. It was too bad really, because I respect Marcus Samuelson as a chef and expected more. From service to plating to taste, it just did not cut it. Maybe I’ll invite him over for a private dinner to give him a second chance?
We didn’t let our sub par Sunday brunch let us down…it was the New York City marathon after all! We ran to Central Park (ok fine, leisurely strolled) where we watched the Marathoners run their hearts out. It was quite a moving thing to see and I’m so glad we happened to be there when it was going on. In fact one of the people staying at our guest house was running too so it was cool to talk to him about it.
From there we continued our coffee testing and headed to a cafe called Joe where M had another exquisite java. From there we went to a little New York institution you may have heard of called, Zabar’s, where we split a Reuben sandwich. The real highlight here though was the congregation of Jewish women gathering at the formica tables for their Sunday afternoon gossip. It was seriously too much…I was laughing out loud listening to these 80+ year old women talk about the beauty parlour in their thick New Yorker accents while applying bright red lipstick.
From Zabar’s we headed for a little walk. Have I mentioned that the weather was amazing, almost warm? To celebrate this, we had a gelato at GROM on recommendation of my friend Tiz.
After all this, we were beat and we literally collapsed alongside the marathoners on the subway and headed home. I did some homework and then we took a break for dinner at a most amazing local Italian place called Al Di La. I had the first raw kale salad I have ever liked. Stay tuned because I will be replicating that recipe in my own kitchen and posting it for you all. We got to talking to the people beside us too and met some great guys: Matt from Seattle and Steve from Queen’s. I’m telling you New Yorkers are awesome!
This is one of the photos M took when he was out and about while I was studying. It's the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset...amazing eh?
Monday was homework day as I mentioned. I finally wrapped up my projects by dinner time so we travelled into Manhattan to have dinner at another famous New York restaurant: Lombardi’s for some real delicious Neopolitan pizza.
Tuesday was my free day where I could live it up from morning till night without worrying about school and that’s exactly what we did. We had breakfast at home and picked up a green juice on our way to the subway. We then headed into Manhattan and popped by Bluebird Cafe to check out their super duper coffee offering. We met some great locals including a chanting vegan thrusting don’t eat meat flyers into my hands. From there, we travelled back into Brooklyn to go visit 2 brilliant chocolate men: the Mast Brothers. They deserve an entire post of their own, but let me just say that these guys literally make chocolate bars from scratch with no bull shit in them. I had a million questions for the staff there and after tasting several bars, we bought a few and went on our merry way.
M's photo taken from the Top of the Rock. What a great city!
No visit to NYC is complete without a stroll along 5th Avenue. After perusing through all the merchandise I could never afford, we parked ourselves down at a sandwich joint we could afford: Wichcraft, an idea by Tom Collichio (also of Top Chef fame…are you seeing a theme here?) where I had a smashed chickpea and preserved lemon sandwich that was so light and fresh, I will be replicating that one at home too.
After some more perusing on 5th Avenue including Tiffany’s, we went up the Rockefeller Centre to get the best view of Manhattan. We spent over an hour and half up there while my amazing photographer husband shot some award worthy photos. After that it was time for…dinner! This dinner was the highlight of my NYC trip. We went to Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill and…he was there! I saw him with my own 2 eyes! For those of you who don’t know, Bobby Flay is an Iron Chef (see I’ve switched chef competitions) and he specializes in Mexican inspired dishes. Eating there was amazing…the best table service I’ve ever had and the flavours were deep and complex but still refined. It was a great way to spend our last dinner in NYC.
We woke up Wednesday morning with a bittersweet feeling. We were excited to come home to see our puppy again but we were sad to leave this great city. We popped by a great neighbourhood grocer, called the Brooklyn Larder, to pick up some snacks for the ride home.
Overall, it was one of the nicest vacations I’ve ever had with some of the greatest food I’ve ever tasted. I hope I’ve given you some great ideas on places to visit when you head to NYC.