We recently visited V’s sister again, and this time, managed to squeeze in a couple of days in New York on the end of it. Very exciting, given how much fun we had last time – about three years ago, and what feels an absolute age ago. It also happened to be my birthday, and how cool does it sound to say ‘I’m spending my birthday in New York’.
We decided to stay in the Lower East Side again, as there were so many things we didn’t get to do from the last time we were there. Only this time we managed to snag accommodation that was in the Lower East Side proper, and round the corner from the subway (Delancey and Essex St, love how cool that sounds!), instead of 8 blocks away.
What did we get up to? A run-down of what we got up to:
Arrived late afternoon-ish, after a stopover in Newhaven on the train for lunch. Stopped at Louis’ Lunch, birthplace of the hamburger (although I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that there are other places that claim that), although how the burger was served (between two pieces of sliced bread, and no condiments – ketchup absolutely not allowed) recalled something I saw on TV once. It was ok – I confess I am a ketchup addict, and really missed it. Had it with the potato salad (V wasn’t a fan) and birch beer, which was basically what I remember as sarsaparilla from when I was younger.
We were pretty tired and ended up napping the rest of the afternoon away, before waking up to go to a yoga class but then finding out via email that it had been cancelled. Got up anyway and headed out for an early dinner to Clinton St Baking Co., where I finally got to try their buttermilk fried chicken on waffles. How was it? The chicken was super super moist and tender. The waffles, fluffy, light, and sweet (they were vanilla buttermilk waffles) – and surprisingly went well with the chicken. Oh – and it was huge – I didn’t stand a chance of finishing it.
We came home after dinner and fiddled around with the TV for a bit before settling on a film on Netflix – Blue is the Warmest Colour, which I had wanted to see, and by the way, is a really good film. It reminded me of Nine Songs, but I think Blue… is the better film, with more relatable characters, and really good performances by the two leads. Oh, and New York gets mentioned in the film – very aptly described (you’ll have to see the film to see what’s said).
Woke up, and went to yoga, which was exactly what my body needed. It’s funny how even after a couple of weeks of no exercise or stretching of any sort, tension just builds up into kinks that you’re not aware of, until you try to stretch them out.
On the way back from yoga stopped for breakfast at a place that looked more promising than it ended up proving to be (I hate that – when they lure you in with a menu that sounds like they know what they’re doing, but then don’t deliver). Never mind – it wasn’t too bad, and V got a memorable experience out of it. He wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry inside when the Mexican lady who seemed to be doing all the work even though there were two of them there, frothed the milk in time to the music, and for about three minutes longer than she should have. And then went back and frothed it again for maybe another two minutes. I think we were both relieved we’d ordered juices and not any hot drinks, and very apprehensive for the Australian group that appeared later and ordered flat whites (hah!).
We got back home and got ready, and headed out to go to the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA – who knew such a thing existed – we didn’t either until we read about a photo exhibition there in TimeOut). On the walk there I got distracted by offers of cheap dim sum ($1.95 a plate!) and we paused to have a pre-lunch snack, before having a very interesting (and free! thanks to Target sponsored free Thursdays) visit to MOCA; thoroughly enjoyed the photo exhibition – Annie Ling was the photographer, as well as their very informative permanent exhibits.
After that we headed uptown to go to Totto Ramen, recommended by a friend who had been to New York about six months ago, and perfect for the sub-zero temps (although not for our already still full from our ‘snack’ of Chinese dim sum – American portions are huge!). The ramen broth was thick and silky smooth, but I’m afraid I was probably in no state to appreciate it.
After ramen, we headed to Central Park to find the ice-skating rink. We knew we probably wouldn’t really have enough time to, and it ended up taking us longer than we anticipated to find the rink, as well as having an unplanned detour through a shopping centre, so we definitely didn’t have time to, but it was a nice walk anyhow.
And then it was time to meet V’s sister’s brother-in-law who lives in Manhattan. We went to the only Indonesian restaurant in Manhattan, and had a very tasty, vegetarian Indonesian feast. If I may say so myself, I did good with my ordering, and all involved reported tastebuds were satisfied. And we didn’t leave too much uneaten, thankfully, even though I was still full – and a little bit bloated from something I’d had earlier.
After dinner it was onto Sleep No More, a dark immersive Punchdrunk production which has had a two year run in New York. Crazy – goes to show the British must have something over the Americans when it comes to innovation and the arts! Was an interesting experience although not too different from the last Punchdrunk production we saw – attended might be a better word actually – in London, made more interesting by the differences between American culture (and audiences) and British. Like talking, or touching the actors, or pushing your fellow audience members out of the way and then obstructing their view, etc etc. Or being duped into purchasing drinks prior to the show, then being hit up for a tip. Anyway, it answered one of our questions from the last Punchdrunk performance we went to see, and that being familiar with the story (we saw a production of Macbeth only last year) doesn’t actually help you work out what’s going on in the scenes that much more.
We were completely shattered, and canned plans to go for yoga in the morning, staying in bed until mid-day instead. By the time we got ready and headed out, it was maybe 2pm in the afternoon. We grabbed a juice at a juice bar conveniently near us, on our way to Katz (another thing we didn’t get to do last time we were in New York despite walking past it multiple times – we were just never near it at a suitable mealtime). The place was more casual than I expected (self-service – yeay!), but full of character and completely buzzing although we had just missed lunchtime (and thankfully, the queues), and the pastrami was as good as they say it is.
We then headed uptown to visit the MoMA, and got there in time to join the massive queue for their free Fridays (thanks Uniqlo – saved us $25 each!). This moved really quickly so we were in no more than 15 mins, and did a tour of a couple of the temporary exhibitions (a Frank Lloyd Wright one, and an Isa Genzken? retrospective). About two hours later, we’d had enough of the museum, and the crowds, and it was about time to head back to LES for dinner – Chinese with friends, before the final, and most important thing to tick off our list from the last time we were there – poetry slam at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.
I didn’t know exactly what to expect from the poetry slam, but it was more than just the poetry slam. The MC was hilarious (who says women aren’t funny?!), and got the audience participating in the bits in between the poetry. The poets were both funnier than I expected – well two of them were, while the other two were more the anguished, soul-baring types – and extremely talented, and passionate. The night we went happened to be a semi-final night, so this probably helped the quality of the poets, which helped make it a memorable evening.
We got up reasonably early as we had to pack before heading out, and knew we had to be back by about lunchtime to leave by early afternoon for the airport.
We had a small issue of me not being able to find my purse in the morning, but decided we should just head out to meet our friends as there was little we could do anyway – other than phoning the bank to cancel my debit card.
We headed to Williamsburg for Smorgasburg – the subway and walk taking us a mere 30 mins (love love love the location of our borrowed little flat), where I think we did a pretty good job of sampling what was on offer. Among the more interesting offerings: pastrami wontons, the famous (infamous?) ramen burger, vegan hotdogs with Asian inspired toppings. More conventional and lip-smacking good: a seafood bisque, and the best toastie ever – achieved by literally painting the slices of bread with melted butter before assembling the sandwich and toasting it.
We then headed back to the flat via the Chinese restaurant from the night before, where, against all our expectations they had my purse! And then had plenty of time to leisurely get ready to go to the airport, and grab another juice, and a raw oat porridge, from the juice bar. Oh – and by the way, over the course of a couple of days the weather had improved so that the Saturday was practically T-shirt weather.
And that was New York the second time round – just as satisfyingly good as the first.