It was a weekend of New York visitors! Before Emily arrived, I was able to meet Erik Hanberg and his lovely girlfriend Mary for lunch at a great Mexican place called Palapa in the East Village. They were in town to catch a show (Spring Awakening) and walk the streets.
It was great to catch up with them and hear all about their interesting side-jobs that they are hoping turn into full-time gigs. The creative class, taking over: Mary in graphic design and Erik in video production/podcasting for a Tacoma blog(it's cool, check it out: www.exit133.com). Best of luck to them!
Was just about what Emily (my sister) was able to enjoy this weekend. We had a great time, and I was absolutely ecstatic to have a visitor. She arrived Saturday evening, and we braved the sultry evening for our first adventure in Soho and a favorite pastime of Em's: shopping. First stop, H&M for a look at their fall fashions (Em left the store with just a couple of items, so it's probably a thumbs down for fall 2007). She then found a "hot" pair of shoes at the Steve Madden store (where we discussed moving the store to her house, or her moving into the store). After shopping, it was time for sustenance, and we took a leisurely stroll down to Little Italy. In the summer, the 5-block-long strip is closed to traffic as the myriad restaurants spill out onto the sidewalk and gelato, kitsch, and cookie vendors hock their wares in the street. It's a lively, crowded place reminiscent of a palazzo, though I don't speak from experience. Dinner was lovely, Em's was decidedly superior. She chose the sea bass, and it was perfection: delicately cooked, the fish melted in your mouth, and the sweetness of sun dried tomatoes and artichokes added a complexity of flavor and texture. Yum. I had orrechiette (ear-shaped pasta) with broccoli rabe and sausage. It was quite good, though no comparison to the sea bass. We picked up a few Italian cookies (called lemon drops, they have a sugar glaze and are very similar to cookies that grandma makes around Easter and Christmas) before heading north to the ultimate tourist attraction: Times Square.
New Yorkers, as a rule, avoid Times Square on Friday and Saturday nights, especially in August. We found out why. The sidewalks were packed with people and walking one block was like trying to wade through quicksand. On the other hand, there's nothing quite like Times Square at night, so we joined the throngs and craned our necks for the 6 blocks of flashing lights and jumbotrons. After that we needed a drink, so we headed off to Blockheads nearby for margaritas. We ambled home, full and happy, to sweat out a miserable night in my windowless room.
The morning brought beautiful weather (slightly cooler and much less humid) for our full day of planned activities. We started off on Smith St. in my neighborhood, for a wonderful brunch at a little Cuban place. We shared an omelet and fruit salad, and Em had a magnificent coco latte (a latte made with a hint of coconut milk). They also had thin-sliced fried plantains instead of the ubiquitous tortilla chips. Those were good, but the real star of the meal was the mix of salsa and fresh herbs for dipping. We asked the waitress what was in it and told us it was their special mix of cilantro, parsley, jalapeños, tomatoes, and lime juice. We called it delicious, and asked for more to slather over the omelet.
With full bellies we hopped a train headed for Queens. There were two more things on the schedule today: a quick stop at the US Open and then on to see the family. The US Open starts today, but yesterday was a free open practice, and just happened to be one stop on the subway before Flushing (our destination to see the family). So, we stopped for about an hour to check out the grounds and see some players in practice with their coaches and other players. It was fun to see the stadiums and some tennis up close. Then it was off to Flushing.
Tom, Maria and Uncle Tony met us at the train station, and we hopped in the car to head out toward Whitestone, NY and Frank & Emma's house. We met Emma's daughter and her husband and kids. We also met her daughter-in-law and one of her grandsons, though Emma's son couldn't make it down from Rhode Island for the weekend. Turns out it was Frank's birthday, and perhaps that was the reason that the bounty that was set out before us seemed even more extravagant this time. We started, as always, with pasta (rigatoni with tomato sauce, ricotta and mozzarella), but then came the barrage. Dishes kept coming and coming faster than we could dish things out and the table was literally overflowing. Green salad, cucumber salad, broccoli rabe, fried cauliflower, green snap peas, eggplant & peppers, chicken, steak, sausage, hot dogs. We stuffed ourselves while Emma goaded us to take more and chided us for not eating enough. All that was cleared, and then came two fruit plates, bread dough biscotti, a huge plate of cookies, watermelon, cantaloupe, and plates of peaches and plums. We figured this was dessert. Oh no, mi amici. It being Frank's birthday, there was a gigantic tiramisu cake, several other assorted pastries, and the ubiquitous espresso and sambuca. It was a feast of epicurean proportions.
Unfortunately, I played it a bit too cool-as-a-cucumber about getting Em back for her train to Jersey, and that made for a mad dash to Penn Station. Though I'm sure I contributed to her already too high stress level, we made it to the train with a minute to spare. That was the only bittersweet moment of Em's time here, a harried goodbye on the train platform. On the upside, she got just enough of a taste of New York to want to come back.
I recently found great chocolate in DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Brooklyn Overpass) at Jacques Torres Chocolates. It’s a beautiful shop in this neighborhood renowned for its spacious lofts among warehouse and industry, with an often stunning view of the lower Manhattan skyline. Check out the chocolate covered Cheerios and huge ice cream sandwiches. The stars, of course, are the little truffles in surprising and tasty flavors like: key lime, pistachio marzipan, and peanut butter mocha. My mouth is watering again. If I walk there from home (about 1 mile round trip) I can have 5 chocolates a day, right? Right?
The other thing DUMBO is renowned for is two giant buildings that say Watchtower. So you might get asked if you'd like to join the Jehovah's Witnesses if you hang out for too long. Of course, you can always say: "These chocolates are heavenly enough for me, thanks."