On our way to say Hello to Dublin, 2011-style.
Category: about America
After several injustices at JFK over the last year, we have another airport to add to our AVOID list. Let’s get to that in a moment.
Our last stop in New York City for May 2011: Minetta Tavern. We scored reservations right when they opened and experienced some of the best service we’d had all week. Eggs Benedict ended up on in front of me again, this time in the more traditional manner but equally compelling. Can’t help what you love. I recommend Minetta Tavern. Lovely final stop.
We left with plenty of time to JFK and sailed across several highways. All was looking well for our departure before the traditional late-afternoon JFK slowdown in the takeoff queue, when our plane basically got backed into a ditch. And apparently the asphalt was going soft, worsening conditions. It’s not even Summer, folks.
Several tow trucks later — including the largest they had on the airport premises — we were out of that ditch. But, we needed refueling which led to more paperwork which led to getting in a very long queue to leave.
3 hours later, we were aloft. They were out of everything except crackers, and I’m still a little bitter over paying $5 for that measly snack box.
We eventually made it home.
If you ever find yourself wondering about a good time to visit NYC, may I suggest Memorial Day Weekend? The crowds thin remarkably. This is our second visit and the natives confirmed it’s often like this, as many head to the shore.
What’s up with the dude at 7 o’clock?
This morning, Mr. T & I finally made it to Balthazar. It’s been on my list for years, and very nearly got nixed this visit (I wanted to make sure we wouldn’t be too full for Di Fara), but I’m so glad we made it. I’ve been hunting for great Eggs Benedict since this Redfish Benedict in Baton Rouge. Most fall short; Balthazar’s Eggs Norwegian was To Die For. Our waitress recommended the bread basket and the fruit bowl — we took her up on the latter, and found it perfectly refreshing.
We puttered around the apartment for a bit, before heading back to Brooklyn, to finally get a piece of some good New York pizza at DiFara. We’ve been trying for years, and this was the first time we’ve actually thought it was worth writing home about. I ordered a slice of the pepperoni and green olives, which incidentally, have been my favorite toppings since I was at least 10 years old. (I remember my Dad ordering this for me for my 10th birthday back when those toppings were options, from Domino’s. That was a happy meal.)
Then, we took the long way to Smorgasburg, the new food-focused market by the folks behind The Brooklyn Flea. It was very Portlandia, and we may have been a little too full too appreciate it.
A source for your fancy breakfast cereal treat needs.
I ordered a Pear shave ice and Mr. T tried the Rhubarb Ginger.
We wandered Brooklyn a bit before lounging around the apartment some more, then tried to give Ippudo the ramen shop one more try.
Echo, at Madison Square Park — a special sculpture, for this Summer, picture taken on our walk to the East Village.
While our names languished on Ippudo’s wait list, we hopped over to Mayahuel, another Rocky bar rec. As I am a sucker for anything vaguely Mexican, once one tequila drink was down, we gave up on Ippudo and ordered ceviche (okay) and tamales (good). Stellar drinks — the female bartender was top notch and guided us through the rest of our orders. Turns out, she is from the Northwest! (Portland, to be precise.) We wrapped up our visit by having shots with her, of the special house tequila. It’s my favorite NYC bar from this trip.
If you go, we liked all we tried:
Herb Albert: Jalapeno infused blanco tequila, mezcal, oregano, lime
the Watermelon Seasonal: not on the menu and I wish I remembered the ingredients, other than the watermelon-salt rim!
Randy Cocktail: Reposado tequila, lime and ginger, with a rinse of mezcal
Bermuda Longtal: Jalapeno infused tequila, pineapple infused mezcal, lime, yellow chartreuse
Cantinflas: Reposado tequila, dry oloroso sherry, amaro, grand marnier, xocolatl mole bitters
I made it a point to see one exhibit while I was in NYC this time: Savage Beauty at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, featuring the fashion of Alexander McQueen. The rumors of massive lines and wall-to-wall humanity are true. I tried to photograph the waiting hordes (the exhibit itself forbid cameras), but they’ve done a clever job of winding lines through the museum. I left this exemplary art exhibit finally understanding the love for Sarah Jessica Parker’s fashion choices.
The last time I’d visited the Met, I was in my final month of college. It felt good to afford the donation-admission this time.
The gloom from yesterday’s lackluster lunch was dispelled by today’s choices:
Breakfast at No. 7 Sub
I started my day with the General Tso’s soft-boiled egg breakfast sandwich: a messy delight.
Lunch at ABC Kitchen
When I arrived at ABCK, the host and hostess were borderline dismissive, like the guys in the Jeffrey SNL skit. I don’t experience this often amongst New Yorkers even at more elevated establishments, so I humored them (read: ignored) and caught up on Facebook til I was seated.
On the other hand, the wait staff were gracious and charming. I settled into a Basil Lime Daiquiri and promised myself I’d recreate the syrup at home. I ordered the burger. I know. But I wasn’t in the headspace for greenmarket preciousness. And I’d never had an Akaushi burger before. And it had jalapenos! And I was missing Burger of the Month! I had to make that up somehow.
My eye’d caught the dessert menu when I arrived, so I cut myself off early to order dessert. That’s where I lost all sense of boundary and plowed through this massive ice cream sundae with the joy of a free spirit not facing a diabetic coma on the other side. It was: salted caramel ice cream, candied peanuts and popcorn, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce. It could have fed three people. It was epic. It was awesome. I needed a nap.
Dinner at Dram
Once my sugar stabilized, Mr. T and I went to Brooklyn. This was the first time I’ve intentionally gone there without planning to walk right back across the Brooklyn Bridge. It seemed inconvenient before but once we got there, we relaxed. We ate and drank at Dram, and wandered the leafy hood before heading home.
I don’t even know what was going on here at Gramercy Park. Possibly a set-up.
Sometimes, during trips away from Seattle, I panic about trying to see or try or taste all I might want. Today’s reservations were a reflection of trying to cram in all the recs after my Tuesday freakout.
I started my morning at Gramercy Park’s Maialino, a new Italian place recommended by everybody and their brother. Akin to Locanda Verde, they serve a solid Italian breakfast (covered well by Serious Eats, which sold me the reservation, really). Service was excellent but I started my bubbling skillet of Amatriciana (eggs in spicy tomato sauce) too soon. Burn!
Mostly, I eavesdropped on my table neighbors, observing neurotic New Yorkers in their element. The lady to my right was trapped in an early-era Sex and the City episode. My waiter brought extra focaccia for the delicious amatriciana sauce — a perfect way to linger to pick up stories told to my left, between two unemployed writers railing against a declining publishing industry.
I had to get back to the morning grind, to earn my Harlem lunch break up at the Red Rooster. Maybe the lunch cooks are the C-Team, but I didn’t get why the place is popular enough to be booked a month in advance. My fried yardbird was fairly dessicated — I’ve had better chicken from the Safeway deli case in the hour before closing. The gravy, on the other, hand, was worth writing home about, as was the service. The hostess butchered my last name upon arrival, but that distinction meant she remembered it when wishing me a good day as I departed.
Young G was leaving Friday (tomorrow), and he still hadn’t seen Central Park. We made a special trip north after work to show it off. After only marching 100 yards into the park, he was so underwhelmed by the place that we turned back. Well hell, I wasn’t going to sell it when I had other things I could do, like gather treats from Bouchon Bakery and Momofuku’s Milk in Midtown. I did just that on the way to dinner. (We’ve already exhausted Monday’s crack pie stash.)
The 90-minute waitlist at downtown’s Ippudo (ramen) drove us deeper into the East Village for pre-dinner Pommes Frites. Once we came across quick sandwiches at Baoguette, it was all over for Ippudo. I had to try the Vietnamese take on a Sloppy Joe. I like my mom’s mid-western version better.
I hope that someday that Young G makes it to the Bethesda Fountain. We walked him past Madison Square Park one more time.
Last Fall, I walked to the High Line several times and noticed The Tipsy Parson in our hood on the way, either coming or going. What I remembered most was that each time I walked by in the evenings, the foggy windows allowed just a glimpse into a cozy-looking hangout. This time, I googled ahead for the word on the street. Turns out, it’s a place that specializes in southern comfort food. Sold! I had a late lunch of fried pickles, mac and cheese, and a Rhubarb Smash (rhubarb bitters!). ‘Tis the season for rhubarb.
Tonight was a special occasion dinner, commemorated at Blue Ribbon Sushi, per recommendation by Mr. T’s boss’ boss (grand-boss, as we’ve begun calling it). I’d share pictures, but it was too dark inside. Great meal, but as we wrapped it up before sunset, I fired up the phone to find the nearest watering hole on my nyc-may2011 map.
We found ourselves in the subterranean Little Branch in the West Village. My husband discovered a new standard cocktail: The Penicillin, while I went for a ginger concoction. Young G reverted to beer. I think we all left happy.
Today I decided there was more to explore at Mad. Sq. Eats. I checked out Calexico’s tacos and their chipotle pork quesadilla. That sauce was worth writing home about.
I got a lot of work done at the apartment before joining Mr. T and his crew at Room Service. Room Service is a Thai restaurant conveniently located near Mr. T’s workplace (one of his teammates is in her last two weeks of pregnancy and it’s uncomfortable for her to walk much farther). I’ll say this: on the menu, I ordered the Pad Noh Mai, something I’d never had before — a dish they proclaimed as truly Thai spicy. The description said, “Very spicy. This plate won’t be adjusted to suit American tastes.” I felt like a bad-ass since I thought it tasted normally spiced. (Maybe the mango mojito was just that refreshing?) The food was very good. Seattle has this genre covered well already, so while I wouldn’t have normally selected this place, it was a happy dinner.
The party broke up as we entered the magic hour and I suggested to Mr. T and the Young G that we check out The High Line.
We got even more ambitious — since Young G wanted to see it, we headed to Lower Manhattan for the WTC site and Wall Street.
We came across the Irish Famine Memorial. On the top side of that complex, it is remarkably like rural Ireland — a patch of dirt and scraggy bushes with a winding path to a viewpoint, right in the shadow of office towers.
But these are probably my favorite images of Lower Manhattan that evening, taken by Mr. T:
Halfway to a ~hundred floors, the new WTC
The Jersey Shore, from the Irish Famine Memorial
Times Square on a Monday Night
In the Chelsea apartment this time, we had this great view of 7th Avenue. Sure, our situation was a little noisier than our last visit, but I realized the spacious room setup enabled me to feel apart of the bustling city while I worked away at the desk. I could look out briefly for people-watching opportunities.
At lunch, I checked out the nearby Madison Square Eats food truck congregation. I picked up some Ginger Syrup from the P&H Soda Co. to carry back to Seattle, some Hibiscus Tea from Spices and Tease, a feta and olive pretzel from Sigmund’s Pretzel Shop for mid-afternoon, and The Bee Sting from Roberta’s for lunch. Oh, and maybe some Crack Pie from Momofuku Milk Bar’s outpost found its way into my bag.
Early afternoon, the housekeeper stopped by. She saw me starting the spicy soppressata and honey pizza and said she could come back later, when I was “done eating.” Obviously, she doesn’t know me well yet, because I couldn’t see that happening for the remainder of the week.
When Mr. T & his coworker (G) arrived back at the building after their day, we went to Momofuku SsÃ¤m Bar. I’ve been meaning to get to this place for YEARS. It lives up to the hype. We had pork belly buns, straight up pork on a plate with espresso flavored mustard, braised oxtail dumplings, and chili soft shell crab with sour plum, lemon confit, and green garlic. Everyone had their fill. We skipped dessert at the restaurant to check out Momofuku Milk Bar (LES) where I bought a compost cookie and Grasshopper Pie with a Candy Bar Pie to keep it company.
We finished our day at the Breslin next to the Ace Hotel, after taking the Young G to see Times Square for the first time.
Mr. T & I arrived at JFK in NY mid-afternoon. After the longest wait at the cabbie stand, followed by a traffic-filled journey, we arrived to the familiar apartment building in Chelsea. Comforting to return after six months and recognize the same doormen, though the name has changed and the building is undergoing a serious upgrade.
We wasted no time in our dinner search and bee-lined to The Spotted Pig. They warned of an hour wait, so I consulted the Google map I created for the trip. Employees Only was merely blocks away! A perfect place for refreshment, where we could while away the hour. I had the Ginger Smash (Ginger Smash Muddled Ginger Root & Fresh Kumquats shaken with Pueblo Viejo Blanco Tequila, Rhum Clement Creole Shrubb & Fresh Lime Juice, served over ice) and he had the Ruby Tuesday (Wild Turkey Rye shaken with Benedictine, Fresh Lemon Juice & pureed Black Cherries). Perfect start to New York.
Back at the Spotted Pig, we ordered the pot of pickles (of course), the char-grilled burger (delicious, as friends advertised), and sheep’s milk ricotta gnudi with brown butter & sage. I’m a sucker for browned butter!
Should you need a studio for a pet portrait, I’ve got a lead in the West Village:
Downtown San Jose & Psycho Donuts
On Tuesday, Trish and Jared told me about Psycho Donuts, so after my conference wrapped up, I took a walkabout before I could catch a ride to Mountain View. I’d be staying on Mr. T’s turf for the night — we ended up joining his bosses for an amazing izakaya dinner in Saratoga.
They are clever operators at that Psycho Donuts. I ordered two — the Tequila Sunrise with tequila cream filling and orange icing, and the Suicide Squeeze made with chocolate pudding filling and covered with crushed oreos. They have dozens of cool ideas listed on their site.
Late Night Run for the In-N-Out
Downtown San Jose
Hello, San Jose
This morning, I ran the Mardi Gras Half for the second year. Last year, I ran this race on my wedding day. I believe this gives me bragging rights for the next decade.
I paced with the chicken above during miles 9 and 10. Pretty sure he beat my time in the end, but I was still proud of how strong & energetic I felt at that finish line. For that finale, I’d like to thank the guy at mile 12 handing out King Cake.
Mr. T met me at the end and tried to snap a picture, but it turns out my decision to sprint those final 500 yards meant he caught the back of some other lady’s head. Oops.
Our first order of business, post-shower, was refueling. We walked down Dauphine to a new place we’d noticed Friday night, called Nosh. We had the place to ourselves. An artist walked in (apparently returning, having been invited) to draw portraits of the staff. Between getting our biscuits and gravy and whatnot, our waitress sat for him. She and the attendant side conversations were charming.
Speaking of charmed, that’s how I’d describe today, where we explored the quarter in warm sunshine.
Mid-afternoon, I started fretting I was coming down with Mr. T’s cold, so I napped that fear away. We awoke hungry, and ready to dine at a place I’d vaguely known about — The Green Goddess. I’d love to recall who might’ve told me about it first (Rocky?), and name my next dog after him (an honor, I promise you). We had one of the top 5 meals of my life — the evening was ridiculously spectacular.
Lemme put it like this: when the chef comes out to fist-bump you at the end of your meal, I’d say it’s a confirmation of a great time. The joy of that meal may carry me for months. There were none of the New Orleans clichÃ©s, but all of those delightful eccentricities. (I know. Calling New Orleanians eccentric is a clichÃ©, but the stereotype is grounded in truth.)
We arrived before 6 and snagged the final 2 seats open at the bar. From first bite of that powerfully delicious Korean pancake, we were in for it. The mushroom bread pudding was a great savory twist on my husband’s favorite dessert — we noticed it being enjoyed at a few tables. Later, the chef delivered our Armagnac figs and encouraged us to enjoy every last drop of the brilliant Cherrywood-aged balsamico. We obeyed and were thisclose to licking the plate.
Their cocktail program is worth a visit alone. My first drink (their rum sazzy) was on point, but I knew I’d found my One True Drink when the gifted bartender idly mentioned their julep (“See Rock City!) was inspired by a Ginger Mint Julep sign, only a few blocks away. I KNEW THAT SIGN! I’ve photographed that sign. I’ve wished for that drink. And here it was! How lucky were we to have found this place?
Elated from a marvelous dinner, we finished by going for their praline bacon sundae: “Pecan praline ice cream with a creamy bacon caramel sauce carrying a bit of both Pink Himalayan & Black Lava Salts, & micro-planed applewood bacon.” Oh, yeah!
Our complete dinner, as described directly from their menu:
Korean Oyster & Scallion Pancake This classic savory pancake made of both wheat & rice flours, contains Louisiana oysters, scallions, ginger and a touch of spice, served with pickled celery root in yellow pepper remoulade, with sesame-soy dipping sauce.
Mushroom Bread Pudding Several kinds of mushrooms packed into a savory bread pudding, topped with a â€œscoopâ€ of La Serena sheep cheese & Oregon white truffle cream sauce.
Shrimp â€œWearing a Grass Skirtâ€ Roasted Louisiana shrimp wrapped in shredded phyllo, with New Orleans barbecue shrimp sauce, roasted pineapple & young coconut slaw.
Armagnac-Soaked Mission Figs These boozy morsels are stuffed with Strathdon Blue Cheese, wrapped in Serrano Ham, quick-roasted, and finished with Leonardi Balsamico aged 20 years in Cherrywood Barrels.
The Notorious Bacon Sundae — made with pecan praline ice cream with a creamy bacon caramel sauce carrying a bit of both Pink Himalayan & Black Lava Salts, & micro-planed Nueskeâ€™s Applewood Bacon, layered with whipped cream, of course!
My new favorite drink on the planet: â€œSee Rock City!â€ Mint Julep Our exotic take on the eternal verities of the mint julep, with Ginger Syrup, Lychee Juice, muddled mint and Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine.
Mr. T’s favorite: The Oregon Bog Clear Creekâ€™s wonderful Cranberry Liqueur, from organic coastal Oregon bogs; Bruichladdichâ€™s â€œThe Wavesâ€ Islay Single Malt Scotch, Italian orange liqueur, & Fee Bros.Whisky Barrel Bitters.
D-Day Rum Sazerac We invented this to imagine New Orleans captured by German U-boats, leaving us without any Rye whisky to make our home town Sazeracs.â€œNavy Strengthâ€ Smith & Cross rum, Steenâ€™s Cane Syrup, Peychaudâ€™s Bitters and Absinthe rinse.
The Gentle Giant In homage to the giant Pacific NW ecosystem, we blend Green Chartreuse, Gâ€™vine French Gin, lime, lotus tea & a float of Clear Creekâ€™s magnificent Douglas Fir Eau-de-Vie.
My mom and brother came into New Orleans today to go with us for brunch to Commander’s Palace.
I was partially making up for being so ill at the end of our wedding trip when we had a final 25+ brunch at Commander’s (and I was feeling too green to eat anything), and I was partially carbo-loading for Sunday’s race day — but we went all out. I ordered Shrimp & Tasso Henican, Eggs Cochon de Lait with biscuits, and Strawberry Shortcake. All good, but I couldn’t keep my hands off of Mr. T’s pecan crusted gulf fish. I’m a sucker for anything a meuniere.
We mentioned it was our anniversary trip to New Orleans, so they brought out Grapefruit Champagne Sorbet. The remains (that chocolate Happy Anniversary was toooo good to pass up):
Mr. T started feeling hit by a cold, so we dropped him off for a nap while a) I picked up my race number for the Half Marathon followed by b) my Mom, brother, and I visiting the World War II Museum. The special exhibit was Ours to Fight For: American Jews in the Second World War. Pictures were verboten, but there were a few quotes I wanted to remember.
After the museum, we caught the final viewing of the day of Beyond All Boundaries, the Tom Hanks 4-D movie covering the war. Highly recommend, but I could see this as being hard for anyone with PTSD issues. The seats vibrated during bombing scenes and were nearly blinded during the A-bomb scene. We exited through the gift shop and past the Stage Door Canteen to find a refreshed Mr. T waiting for us nearby at The American Sector’s bar. We beat the dinner crowd by minutes, it seemed.
Years ago, I stopped drinking full calorie sodas while on a diet. I never regained the habit, 10 years later. I make exceptions upon rare occassion. Besh’s house made (seasonal) Satsuma Soda seemed like a fine candidate for such — after we ordered, they brought out a seltzer decanter with the satsuma simple syrup, and glasses for everyone. I’m pretty sure I drank 3/4s of the soda all by myself. (An order of the $6 house made soda is at least 6 glasses worth.)
The American Sector specializes in nostalgic, comfort food. Since we were in Louisiana, this included poboys! Huzzah! Mr. T & I each had one, my mom got the Reuben and my brother, the sliders. Crowd-pleasing dinner, all around. I’d like to think that’s how the whole day went.
And for the first time, I went to bed at a reasonable hour before a race!
BTR to MSY to Chicago to Seattle
It’s a rare trip where I’m not mailing a postcard on the way to the airport. This time, another last minute errand was our stop at Sammy’s on Highland. Even better than Sunday’s visit! Shrimp poboy and fried pickles, thank you very much.
We flew back to Seattle via O’Hare. This is somewhere between New Orleans and Chicago.
Thanksgiving at Nottoway Plantation
I started the day with a 5k. It wouldn’t be enough to offset the rest of the day, but…
For our big Thanksgiving meal, we drove down the west side of the Mississippi River past Plaquemines to Nottoway Plantation. My favorite part was the crawfish Ã©touffÃ©e. We got to tour the grounds and I walked along the levee.
After a solid afternoon nap, we went to dinner at a nearby seafood place. They were ready for Christmas and we watched a raucous Saints win.
New State Capitol
The last few times I’ve visited Baton Rouge, the observation deck at the top of the “new” state capitol building was under renovation. They’ve finished, so we took Mr. T up to the top. It was the site of many childhood school day field trips.
We walked the grounds, sat by the river, and slowly made our way home.
Dinner: Stroube’s Chophouse downtown. You know, cause what’s better than a big steak dinner and crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e the night before Thanksgiving?
We started our day right, yet again, visiting with a good friend (E) at Baton Rouge’s Strands Cafe. E told me about the place a few years ago. I stop in every visit now, so it was great to finally go there with her. They make wonderful french pastries (they are LCB-trained), confections and coffee. I’ve worked my way through the whole drink menu and there’s not a single miss.
Then, we spent the afternoon visiting with my oldest friend, G, and her family. By oldest firiend, I mean, G and I — we go all the way back. When she had her baby blessing (other religions consider this a christening) at two months, she borrowed my blessing dress and I hear she did quite the number on it. That’s okay, I was already 6 months ahead of her and it wasn’t like I was gonna use it again.
I could spend hours chatting with her nonstop and back in the day, this is all we did in Summertime afternoons. Now when we get together, there’s other people we have to consider 🙂 and we end up cutting it only to a few hours.
When it was time to go, Mr. T, my mom, brother, & I continued with the trip’s revisiting theme, and drove to another local favorite down river at Roberto’s River Road. More shrimp — this time with peppers and brandy butter in a bread boule — and more Sensation Salad! Yes, this visit was turning into a greatest hits tour.
Shopping ’round BR
We are doing this vacation right. I think I got about 12 hours of sleep last night. When we were ready to face the world, we went with my mom to the newly rebranded La Lou. Once upon a time, it was called Another Broken Egg and I wrote about it. They’ve expanded to dinner service and updated their name to something a little less breakfast-focused. Well, we were there for brunch so I could revisit the Redfish Benedict. I’m happy to report the change in name has not altered the delicious andouille hollandaise.
We spent the rest of the day shopping in various forms — Mall of Louisiana, then later, Books-a-Million. I found a lot of gems in the bookstore, including this missed opportunity for a wedding cake:
The person in charge of book displays has a sense of humor, doesn’t (s)he?